The digital age: opportunities and challenges for work and employment

31 October 2017

The capacity of humankind to store, transmit and manipulate information has expanded hugely in recent years as a result of innovations in computing and telecommunication technologies. Such information and communication technologies (ICTs) are having significant effects in almost all areas of the economy, leading to a general acceleration in the pace of technical change. At the same time, work, its content, its organisation and design, its regulation and protection, are all undergoing great change in this digital age. These changes also often bring a blurring of boundaries between different dimensions of work and between work, employment and non-work activity.

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Policymakers need to gain knowledge that will help to address questions about effective regulation, how to ensure social protection in its broadest sense and balancing the demands of companies, societies and individuals in exploiting the great potential of digitalisation.

The Commission adopted its Digital Single Market strategy for Europe in 2015, highlighting it as one of its political priorities. The strategy can create digital opportunities for citizens and businesses and aims to strengthen the EU’s position as a world leader in the digital economy. It aims to increase access to information, lead to jobs for those with the right digital skills and transform public services. 

Eurofound's work

Eurofound is looking at the broader implications for working conditions, labour regulation and beyond of the increasing scale and scope of digital technologies for the labour market. The employment impact of the automation of services is being explored. Eurofound will also examine the implications of the sharing economy for the labour market, trying to map the contours of this new ICT-based economy across Europe.

The nature of employment in the digital age will be investigated, with a focus on:

The overall aim is to provide a forward-looking analysis of trends, to support the policy debate by developing plausible scenarios, taking into account different growth models and outlining what the future world of work could look like.

Key contributions

A joint report with the International Labour Organization (ILO) has considered the impact of the growth of telework and ICT-mobile work on the world of work, using the findings of national studies in 15 countries. 

Eurofound’s Foundation Seminar Series (FSS) is an opportunity for governments, trade unions and employers to discuss the development of EU social, employment and work-related policies. Most recently, the FSS focused on the impact of digitalisation on work and building up national agendas for better implementation of digital changes.

Ongoing work

  • Background paper on 'Employment in the digital age'
  • Case studies on game-changing technologies in services
  • Quantitative study on the employment impact of the automation of services
  • Working conditions of specific groups, specifically ‘e-nomads’
  • Research on crowd employment
  • Case studies on ICT-based mobile work (2018)
  • Social dialogue in the digital age

Preparations are also underway for a fourth edition of Eurofound's European Company Survey (ECS), jointly with our sister Agency, the European Centre for Vocational Education and Training (Cedefop). The fourth ECS will include questions on digitalisation of work.

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