The Foundation Seminar Series took place over four days; in Dublin on 26-27 May and in Berlin on 13-14 October. During these sessions, participants examined the topic of digitalisation and its implications for work organisation, skills at work, employment and working conditions.
In its contribution, Ibec highlighted the potential of the digital economy to create jobs and enhance productivity across our economy. It emphasised, however, that ensuring that people have the skills required in the future labour market is fundamental to realising this potential and enabling citizens to benefit from digitalisation and future work opportunities. Participation in the digital economy may be constrained for those who do not have the requisite skills. Closing the skills gap is, therefore, of huge importance.
Ibec, therefore, emphasised that a key challenge is to adapt EU and national skills policies to better meet the future labour market needs generated by digitalisation. While some existing jobs and activities may change or even disappear, if people have the rights skills, new activities will develop and will lead to overall employment gains.
Ibec also looked at how elements of the working relationship can be transformed by digitalisation, while recognising that the majority of jobs in our economy are still open-ended “traditional” employment contracts.
Ibec looked at some of the new and diverse forms of working which are developing as a result of digitalisation. In particular, Ibec considered some new relationships emerging from the growth of online platforms. Many of these forms of working offer exciting prospects for businesses and workers, creating new employment opportunities, flexible working arrangements and new sources of income. Of course, they can also pose difficult questions for policy makers.
In considering any proposals for regulation of online platforms, Ibec emphasised that the significant differences between the business models of online platforms must be acknowledged. While online platforms share some characteristics, they operate differently. Therefore, one-size fits all regulation for workers engaged by disparate online platforms is not appropriate.
Furthermore, as the European Commission itself has recognised, any measures in this area must be flexible and future-proof. Given how fast business models and technology are developing, Ibec questioned how effective introducing special regulation for every new innovation or business model would prove to be. Rather, Ibec suggests that we should ensure that existing rules are effectively and properly enforced to meet the new challenges posed by developments in this area.
In Ibec’s view, digitalisation has the potential to deliver jobs, growth and prosperity and ensure the provision of more effective, efficient and secure public services for citizens. A failure to realise this potential would represent a real missed opportunity for businesses, workers and service uses. It is crucial, therefore, that any regulation supports advances in digitalisation in work and enables rather than restricts businesses to adapt to changing economic circumstances and the future workplace.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016