Digital automation and the future of work

David Spencer, Matt Cole, Simon Joyce, Xanthe Whittaker and Mark Stuart of the Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds, UK, at the request of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) and managed by the Scientific Foresight Unit, within the Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS) of the Secretariat of the European Parliament.

Modern capitalist economies are witnessing a period of rapid technological progress. Developments in digital technologies, inclusive of artificial intelligence (AI), are predicted by some at least to create the potential for a great reduction in the volume of work. Others see scope for digital technologies to transform the quality of work.

This report addresses the nature, scope and possible effects of digital automation. It reviews relevant literature and situate s modern debates on technological change in historical context. It identifies threats to job quality and an unequal distribution of the risks and benefits associated with digital automation. It also offers some policy options that, if implemented, would help to harness technology for positive economic and social ends.

The policy options range from industry and sectoral skills alliances that focus on facilitating transitions for workers in ‘at risk’ jobs, to proposals for the reduction in work time. The suggested policies derive from the view that digital automation must be managed on the basis of principles of industrial democracy and social partnership. The report argues for a new Digital Social Contract. At a time of crisis, the policy options set out in the report aim to offer hope for a digital future that works for all.

Read the report here

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