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Digitalization and social dialogue: challenges, opportunities and responses

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In the past few decades, the world of work has been affected by many different vectors of change. These have called into question the standard employment relationship, understood as full-time, open ended employment. Among these changes, very different in their nature, intensity and effects, we might mention the demise of full employment as an economic policy objective, labour market deregulation in a quest for more efficient labour markets – which (allegedly) would bring about lower unemployment – globalization and the growth of a worldwide labour market and the new technological revolution related to the ubiquitous use of information and communication technology (ICT) and the digital revolution. The purpose of this chapter, part of the ILO/EC project: "Enhancing social partners’ and social dialogue’s roles and capacity in the new world of work", is to review the extent to which the digitalization of the economy is transforming the world of work, as well as the role, now and in the future, of social dialogue in helping to improve the governance of these changes, minimizing their negative impact on labour markets and incentivizing their positive effects. In this regard, it is important to acknowledge from the start that the social partners themselves face a major challenge when addressing these changes, not least because, it can be argued (Vaughan-Whitehead, 2017, 2019; Müller, Vandaele and Waddington, 2019), one of the casualties, whether intended or unintended, of the abovementioned changes has been the weakening of social dialogue itself, especially above company level, and the labour and employee institutions responsible for it (see Anxo, chapter 2 in this volume). With that aim, after briefly presenting the major technological changes related to what we will generally denominate in these pages as “the Digital Revolution”, in Section 2 we will review the actual or expected impact of such changes and the potential role that social dialogue could play in addressing them. Against this background, Section 3 will analyse the level of awareness and concerns of the social partners regarding the implications of these changes. This section will also review the extent to which issues related to the Digital Revolution are being taken into consideration in social dialogue at different levels (European, national, sectoral or firm). With that aim, we will undertake a short and selected journey around a sample of EU Member States, highlighting their experiences in this area. Section 4 sees a change of perspective and reflects on how some of the innovations that form part of the Digital Revolution could be used to revamp collective action by the social partners in a kind of “Trade Union or Employee Organization 4.0”. To conclude, Section 5 will present the major findings of the analysis.
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1
Digitalization and social dialogue: challenges,
opportunities and responses
Rafael Muñoz-de-Bustillo Llorente1
1. INTRODUCTION
In the past few decades, the world of work has been affected by many different vectors of
change. These have called into question the standard employment relationship, understood as
full-time, open ended employment. Among these changes, very different in their nature,
intensity and effects, we might mention the demise of full employment as an economic policy
objective, labour market deregulation in a quest for more efficient labour markets which
(allegedly) would bring about lower unemployment globalization and the growth of a
worldwide labour market and the new technological revolution related to the ubiquitous use of
information and communication technology (ICT) and the digital revolution.
The purpose of this chapter is to review the extent to which the digitalization of the economy is
transforming the world of work, as well as the role, now and in the future, of social dialogue in
helping to improve the governance of these changes, minimizing their negative impact on
labour markets and incentivizing their positive effects. In this regard, it is important to
acknowledge from the start that the social partners themselves face a major challenge when
addressing these changes, not least because, it can be argued (Vaughan-Whitehead, 2017, 2019;
Müller, Vandaele and Waddington, 2019), one of the casualties, whether intended or
unintended, of the abovementioned changes has been the weakening of social dialogue itself,
especially above company level, and the labour and employee institutions responsible for it (see
Anxo, chapter 2 in this volume).
With that aim, after briefly presenting the major technological changes related to what we will
generally denominate in these pages asthe Digital Revolution, in Section 2 we will review
the actual or expected impact of such changes and the potential role that social dialogue could
play in addressing them. Against this background, Section 3 will analyse the level of awareness
and concerns of the social partners regarding the implications of these changes. This section will
also review the extent to which issues related to the Digital Revolution are being taken into
consideration in social dialogue at different levels (European, national, sectoral or firm). With
that aim, we will undertake a short and selected journey around a sample of EU Member States,
highlighting their experiences in this area. Section 4 sees a change of perspective and reflects on
how some of the innovations that form part of the Digital Revolution could be used to revamp
collective action by the social partners in a kind of “Trade Union or Employee Organization
4.0”. To conclude, Section 5 will present the major findings of the analysis.
According to Eurofound (2018), the Digital Revolution is affecting work and employment along
three different vectors of change: (i) automation, (ii) the development of sensors and devices
that allow the transformation of production processes into digital information and vice versa
(scanners and 3D printers, for example) and (iii) coordination by platforms. Fernández-Macías,
author of the abovementioned report, covers all of this with the neologism digitization”.
Of these three vectors of change, the first is an old acquaintance of political economy, as the
debate on the implications for employment of introducing machinery has been going on at least
since the third edition of Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation in 1821. This
interest is renewed every time a new wave of technical change leads to further automation of
work, as is nowadays happening with the Digital Revolution. In this regard, it is argued, the new
technology, by substituting labour for capital, will reduce the labour input needed to produce a
unit of output (the labour/output ratio), making it more difficult to achieve full employment.
1 The author would like to thank Fernando Rocha (Fundación 1º de Mayo), Ricardo Rodríguez (Eurofound), Rafael
Bonete (University of Salamanca) and two anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions to previous
versions of this chapter.
2
The second vector of change is certainly more novel, as the so-called “Internet of Things” may
make it possible to transform whole production processes into digital processes, contributing to
the automation of production to unprecedented levels, as well as reaching sectors of economic
activity hitherto protected from it. The labour market implications of these two drivers,
automation and digitization”, would be further exacerbated by the development of machine
learning and so-called “artificial intelligence” (AI) that may change the way humans interfaces
in the production of many goods and services.
The third vector of change is related to the possibilities generated by the new digital
technologies to develop a new model of the firm, the so-called platform”, that maximises the
coordination potential of computerization and algorithms in order to act as pure intermediary
between the clients of a given good or service and the workers producing it. According to
Coase’s theory of the firm (Coase, 1937), the existence of firms in competitive markets is
explained by high transaction costs related to market exchange between suppliers at the
different stages of production of a given good or service, which make it advisable – and cheaper
to produce it under the umbrella of an organization (the firm) that uses planning to allocate
resources internally and the market to relate to customers. In this respect, the existence of
vertically integrated firms in a given market would imply the presence of high transaction costs,
as in its absence, firms would be substituted by a myriad of workers-cum-firms taking care of
the different stages of production of the good or service and selling it in the market to other
producers further up the production process. If we accept this line of reasoning – which after all
won its author a Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics the new technologies, by greatly
reducing transaction costs in many markets, would allow the development of new business
models, with important implications for working conditions. Section 2 briefly reviews the
potential impact on labour markets and social dialogue of these drivers of change.
2. THE POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF DIGITALIZATION ON LABOUR
MARKETS AND THE ROLE OF SOCIAL DIALOGUE
2.1 Digitalization and employment
Probably the first public concern regarding the economic implications of the Digital Revolution
is its potential impact on employment. If the new digital technologies, empowered by machine
learning and AI, increase the rate of substitution of labour by capital, whether robots or
computers, the economy might not have sufficient capacity to create jobs at the pace needed to
absorb those destroyed by the new digital capital. From a macroeconomic perspective, the
increase in productivity related to the introduction of new technologies will result in lower
employment levels only if the rate of growth of productivity is higher than the combined effect
of the increase in demand (GDP growth) and the reduction in working time. Despite the
longstanding fears of technological unemployment (Keynes, 1930) associated with the different
waves of technical change (Mokyr et al., 2015), the truth is that, in the long run, the
combination of economic growth and reductions in working time (with varying importance at
different stages) has made it possible to reconcile technological change and employment
growth. This is also valid for the recent past, when the introduction of digital technologies has
been compatible with growing or stable employment rates, even in a context of economic crisis
and sluggish growth. As can be seen in Figure 1, in 2018, employment to population ratios in
the OECD, the group of high income countries (HIC), the European Union (EU) and the United
States were similar to those a quarter century ago, namely around 60 per cent in the United
States and 54 per cent in the European Union.
3
Figure 1 Employment to population ratio, 15+, total, 1991–2018 (%)
Source: World Development Indicators.
Nevertheless, many technologists and technological gurus (such as Brynjolfsson and McAfee,
2014) argue that this time is different because of the sheer ubiquity of application of the new
technologies – in the past they were limited mainly to agriculture and manufacturingand their
unprecedented potential impact on productivity2. In this regard, in the past decade different
researchers have produced estimates about the probability of job replacement by machines in
the medium term. As we can see in Table 1, these estimates vary widely – even wildlyfrom 9
per cent of jobs, according to the analysis of Arntz, Gregory and Zierahn (2016) for the OECD,
to nearly half of all jobs, 47 per cent, according to the pioneering estimates of Frey and Osborne
(2013).
2 It is important to highlight that this technological enthusiasm doesn´t fit well with the relatively slow
rate of introduction of new technologies by firms, and the correlative increase in productivity. According
to a recent World Economic Forum report: “While several pioneering companies and early adopters
praise technology’s positive impact, adoption remains slow and limited across all industry sectors. More
than 70% of industrial companies are still either at the start of the journey or unable to go beyond the pilot
stage (…) stuck in `pilot purgatory´ “(WEF, 2018, p. 4).
40
45
50
55
60
65
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
EU High income countries (HIC) OECD USA
4
Table 1 Estimates of jobs at risk due to the Digital Revolution
Authors
Criteria
Results
Frey and
Osborne (2013) (2017)
USA: 47% of jobs highly susceptible to
substitution
Bowles (2014)
Probability of the occupation being
EU = 54% at “high risk” of substitution,
ranging from 47% in Sweden to 62% in
Romania
Arntz, Gregory,
Zierahn (2016)
Probability of the job being replaced
by machines ≥ 70%
USA: 9% of jobs at risk of substitution.
OECD: 9% (ranging from 6% in Korea to 12%
in Germany)
Nedelkoska
and Quintini
(2018)
Probability of the job being replaced
by machines ≥ 70%
USA: 10% of jobs at risk of substitution.
OECD: 14% (ranging from 6% in Norway to
33% in Slovakia)
McKinsey Global
Institute (2017)
automation potential of individual
Threshold of 70%: 26% of occupations
Threshold of 30%: 60% of occupations
Employment
Advisory Council, COE
(2017)
characteristics of work described by
10% of French jobs at high risk
Dengler and
Matthes (2018)
15% of all German workers are at high risk
Source: Valenduc and Vendramin (2019), p. 7, Denglera and Matthes (2018) and Bowles (2014).
Without going into detail in analysing the abovementioned estimates and the reasons behind
their differences,3 two elements must be highlighted. The first is that risk of automation is not
the same as employment lost, as there is a long distance between the possibility of automating a
task and doing so. As we know, jobs are bundles of tasks, and the automation of one task should
not be equated with the automation of the job. In fact, when the analysis is made in terms of
tasks, not occupations, the results obtained move towards the lower range of the estimates. The
second element is that even when entire jobs (or occupations) are substituted by machines, that
does not mean that there would necessarily be an equivalent decrease in total employment, as
there are different compensation mechanisms in many cases related to technological
innovation itself that work the other way, generating employment. For example, workers at
risk are flexible and adjust, performing new tasks that complement the new technology;
production of the new machinery requires labour; the increase in productivity derived from the
introduction of new technology might lead to increases in competitiveness, demand and
employment, and so on (Arntz, Gregor, and Zierahn, 2019).
In any case, while the overall impact of these conflicting effects of technological change can be
neutral, or even positive, there is nothing automatic about them, so the fear of technological
unemployment remains a possible future scenario. And even if such a negative scenario does
not materialize, the different national economies would face a churning of jobs, and of labour
demand, with decreasing demand for certain types of jobs or tasks, and increasing demand for
others, a question that we will address in the next section.
2.2 Changes in employment structure
The Digital Revolution, like previous waves of innovation, is, to borrow from Schumpeter, “a
force of creative destruction”, leading to the growth of some sectors of activity and jobs within
them, and the reduction or disappearance of other (now old) sectors and jobs. Two different
hypotheses have been developed regarding the shape of that process of creative destructionin
the realm of employment. According to the firstknown as Skill-Biased Technical (or
Technological) Change (Levy and Murnane, 1992), digital technologies mainly substitute low-
3 For a comparative analysis of the different estimates see: Valenduc and Vendramin (2019), Arntz, Gregory and
Zierahn (2019) or ADB (2018).
5
skilled jobs, while complementing high-skilled ones, leading to an upgrading of the
employment structure. Alternatively, the Routine-Based Technological Change hypothesis
considers that new technologies mainly affect jobs composed of routine tasks, both manual and
non-manual. These perspectives have implications in terms of the types of jobs destroyed as the
new technologies are introduced into production systems. In the first case the adoption of new
digital capital would lead to an upgrading of the employment structure (concentration of the
destruction of employment in low wage jobs and employment creation in high-wage, high-
skilled jobs). In contrast, according to skill-biased hypothesis, the destruction of jobs would be
concentrated in the middle rage of the employment structure, where routine jobs are found, as
both ends are characterized by tasks less routine-intensive – manual at the lower end and
intellectual at the upper end leading to a polarization of the employment structure as
employment growths at both ends of the wage distribution.
So far, the empirical analysis has not been able to offer a clear answer regarding the dominant
pattern of employment change. Although some researchers argue that Routine-Biased
Technological Change can be found pervasively across all high income countries (Goos and
Manning, 2007; Goos, Manning and Salomons, 2009, 2014) others (Fernandez Macias, 2012;
Fernandez Macias et al., 2012; Eurofound, 2015; Oesch and Piccitto, 2019) argue, more
persuasively in my opinion, that different countries follow different patterns of structural
employment change, often depending on circumstances (for example, polarization during
recessions and upgrading during recovery). As stated in a recent joint report of Eurofound and
the JRC (2019), “the dominant pattern of recent occupational change in Europe … is one of
upgrading with some polarization. … But behind this dominant pattern, there have been
significant variations in the patterns at national level” (p. 55). Such diversity is clear in Figure 2,
which reproduces the evolution of employment, ranked from the lower quantile of jobs in the
wage distribution to the top quantile, from to 2011 to 2016 in the United Kingdom, France, Italy
and Germany. These EU countries show different employment growth patterns, from
asymmetrical polarization in Italy (growth at both ends, but much more intense at the lower
end), to upgrading in Germany and, with lower intensity, in the United Kingdom, with France
showing a distinctive pattern of difficult classification.
This debate about the future structure of employment, whether upgrading, polarization or
something else, has important implications for the future of work and social dialogue. In the
first place, because the strength and representativeness of the social partners can differ across
different types of jobs and sectors of activity (manufacturing, for example) and in the second
place, because the existence of a pattern of destruction and creation of jobs in different parts of
the wage distribution (that is, also in different parts of the distribution of jobs according to
educational requirements) will make the transition of redundant workers from one part of the
labour structure to another more difficult, especially if, as the two hypotheses claim, the upper
tail is always one of the growing areas of employment. In Section 3 this issue is discussed
specifically.
6
Figure 2 Employment shifts by job–wage quintile, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom,
2011–2016
Source: European Jobs Monitor (https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/data/european-jobs-monitor)
2.3 New skills and skills obsolescence
A context of rapidly changing production technologies, with swift transformations of whole
sectors and jobs, will undoubtedly affect the skills and type of education demanded by
employers. That being said, the uncertainty generated by the lack of knowledge regarding the
type of skills that the digital technologies of the future will demand makes it difficult to
determine how to prepare the labour force for the coming changes. As stated in a background
report prepared for the 2016 OECD ministerial meeting on the digital economy, “while there is
awareness that the skills profile of citizens and workers will be very different than in the past,
the skills of the future are difficult to identify with certainty due to fast technological changes”
(p. 4).
Against this general background of uncertainty, there is agreement that the new technologies
will increase demand in STEM subjects. At present, this area show a clear gender bias, with
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United Kingdom
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only 12 per cent of total female graduates (ISCED 56) graduating in maths, science and
technology compared with 37 per cent in the case of men (Eurostat, 2012, Tertiary education
graduates).
If we look at the situation in 2015, we can see (Figure 3) that most EU workers (57 per cent)
consider that their training fits their duties well, while 28 per cent believe that they could cope
with more demanding duties. Nevertheless, that leaves 14 per cent of workers who consider that
they need further training to cope with their obligations, so there is quite a lot of room for
improvement. Although these figures are similar to the 2010 results, there has been a small
decrease in the percentage of “over-skilled” workers (4 percentage points higher in 2010),
which could be related, among other things, to the increase in demand for skills during the
period (as well as to the improvement in matching between worker’s skills and skills demands
due to the reduction of unemployment rates).
Figure 3 Workers according to their assessment of the discrepancy between their skills and
their duties
Source: European Working Condition Survey 2015.
When it comes to anticipating what type of skills will be needed in the future, the
abovementioned uncertainty about demand makes it advisable to invest in general skills that
would facilitate accelerating training in specific skills when new needs emerge. As we know
from human capital theory, firms might be reluctant to finance general training (easily mobile),
making it a relevant issue for social dialogue at different levels. In any case, the information
available on skills shortages in OECD countries (Skills for Jobs OCDE Database) points to the
importance of shortages in basic skills (both content and process)4 compared with technical
skills5, which, in fact, are slightly in surplus in the EU.
Furthermore, training (understood in a general sense, including Lifelong learning and adaptative
skills) for the digital economy is a field of interest for the social partners: for firms, as training
might reduce bottlenecks and wage increases in some areas, fostering productivity and
4 The OECD classification includes Basic Content Skills: Reading Comprehension, Active Listening, Writing,
Speaking, Mathematics Skills and Science, and Basics Process Skills: Critical Thinking, Active Learning, Learning
Strategies and Monitoring.
5 Operations Analysis, Technology Design, Equipment Selection, Installation, Programming, Operation Monitoring,
Operation and Control, Equipment Maintenance, Troubleshooting, Repairing, Quality Control Analysis
0%
10%
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30%
40%
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70%
80%
90%
100%
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DE
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DK
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IT
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LV
HR
UK
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EL
PT
CY
BG
I need further training to cope well with my duties
1. I have the rigth skills to cope with my duties
1. I have the skills to cope with more demanding duties
8
competitiveness; for trade unions, as training might reduce the risk of unemployment, facilitate
transitions between jobs and reduce the risk of a growing digital divide for workers at the
margins of the digital economy. According to Eurostat, in 2017, 17 per cent of EU the labour
force had no digital skills or no internet use, with important differences between countries,
ranging from 3–5 per cent in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden to 3637 per cent in
Bulgaria and Romania.6
To conclude this section, it is worth referring to the estimates of the share of employment in
occupations at high risk of automation, which would need a substantial training effort to
facilitate transition to occupations at lower risk of automation. According to the OECDs Skill
Outlook 2019 the simple average of employment at risk with significant training needs to
recycle ranges from 0.9 per cent lower bound to 3.2 per cent (upper bound). There are
marked differences between countries: Belgium and Norway, for example, have very low
percentages of employment at risk with high retraining needs (less than 2 per cent in the upper
bound), while others, such as Slovenia or the Czech Republic, have an upper bound estimate of
almost 6 per cent (OECD, 2019, p. 108). To put these numbers in context, in the EU28,
according to the Adult Education Survey in 2016, slightly over half of the working population
participated last year in formal and informal education and training (with a high of 74 per cent
in the Netherlands and a low of 8 per cent in Romania). In terms of economic resources needed
to confront such increases in training needs, the OECD analysis sets the direct cost in terms of
GDP for the EU19 countries analysed between 0.12 per cent in the case of Belgium and 0.48 per
cent in the case of Italy.7
2.4 New/revival of old types of labour relations
One of the stylized facts of the labour market in the twenty-first century in high income
countries is the increasing importance of non-standard employment relations (NSER), taking the
open-ended full-time contract as the standard employment relationship. In 2018, 14 per cent of
EU28 employees were temporary workers, and more than 20 per cent in the Netherlands,
Portugal, Poland and Spain. The same year, the part-time employment rate in the EU, this time
in relation to total employment, reached 19.2 per cent – 22.5 per cent in the EU15with higher
rates in Sweden, Belgium, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
Finally, close to 10 per cent of workers are own-account workers (self-employed persons
without employees), with as many as 21.5 per cent in Greece and 14.9 per cent in Italy.
Different non-standard forms of employment have different implications. Temporary working
can be considered as a problem when it becomes a permanent feature of the labour market, with
a large proportion of workers going, involuntarily, from one temporary job to another. Part-time
employment is especially negative when part-time workers do so involuntarily because they
have been unable to find a full-time job. In 2018, around 25 per cent of all part-time
employment was involuntary, with rates reaching 65.7 per cent in Italy and 56 per cent in Spain.
Finally, regarding own-account workers two questions have gathered most of the attention
devoted to the topic. The first is their vulnerability in a context in which social protection has
been developed largely on the basis of dependent employment. The second is the possibility,
difficult to trace in LFS statistics, that in the past few years the growth of own-account workers
is the result of the transformation of standard dependent employment relations into an apparent
mercantile firmfirm (own-account worker) relationship that releases the hiring firm from its
obligations in terms of labour and social security regulations. A recent report of the European
Commission’s European Political Strategy Centre (2019), summarises neatly the different sides
of theses “new” forms of work: “Non-standard work can offer benefits such as enabling a wider
6 Eurostat (isoc_sk_dskl_i). Digital skills of the EU labour force, 2017 (percentage of individuals, by skills level).
7 The overall cost, defined as the sum of the direct cost (cost of providing training) and indirect cost (earnings forgone
during training, assuming that workers do not work during training) would be considerably higher (ranging from 0.38
per cent to 1.56 per cent in the Slovak Republic), except in the case of unemployed workers, when the indirect cost
would be zero (OECD, 2019, p. 114).
9
range of workers to enter the job market; facilitating the accommodation of family or personal
obligations or activities; or enabling companies to restructure their activities or improve their
performance. However, while initially considered a stepping stone towards the regular labour
market, there is mounting evidence that suggests people are being trapped in atypical
employment contracts” (p. 4)
Certainly, this trend predates the Digital Revolution and is related to the labour market
deregulation wave of the 1990s. For example, in Spain it can be traced back to 1984, in a
context of massive unemployment, and was justified by the government as a policy to improve
employment growth. But some of the characteristics of the new digital technologies could make
these types of employment relations especially attractive, and viable, for firms.
The development of a new business model, the platform, based, among other things, on the use
of huge amounts of information in real time and the algorithms and computing capacity to
manage them at low cost, makes it possible to split production processes into simple tasks that
can be carried out by individual workers all around the world. Although there are many different
types of platforms8 and, so far, their impact on the labour market is far from significant
according to Pesole et al. (2018) around 2 per cent of the adult population in the EU9there is a
lively debate, both public and legal, about the employment status most platforms confer on the
workers who perform the jobs coordinated by them, above all whether such employment should
be considered dependent employment or not. Obviously, following one or the other path has
implications in terms of the labour regulations applied, as well as platform workers’ access to
social protection, as in most EU countries self-employed are less protected by labour
regulations, have access to lower social protection and have to finance all of it (in contrast with
employees). On the other hand, self-employed might enjoy benefits in terms of flexibility of
working time, autonomy or taxation, but these advantage only materialize in the case of “true”
own account workers, and not in the case of bogus self-employed.
The issue of non-standard employment relations and their use by the new digital firms can be
conflictual, as employeesorganizations usually defend these “new” forms of work and
employment as a way to increase the flexibility of labour and reduce costs: “Companies’
adaptability to change is a key factor in their competitiveness. Successful companies are those
that restructure their activities quickly in response to market conditions. Flexible contracts and
flexible working time arrangements play an important role in this respect” (BusinessEurope,
2017, p.4). In contrast, trade unions focus on the deterioration of working conditions often
related to these forms of employment. As stated by the ETUC in its resolution A fairer labour
market for Europe: an ETUC visionof 2627 March 2019, “Employment rates have continued
to rise incrementally but too often at a cost of poor quality and precarious forms of work which,
as well as being detrimental themselves, also prohibit access to social protection and pension
entitlements when they end.” In fact, in the EUTC definition of quality of work, work security
via standard employment and access to social protection comes in second place, after good
wages, in a list of six items.10
2.5 Changing health and safety risks
Digital technologies and automation reduce some of the occupational safety and health risks
related to moving heavy loads or performing strenuous and dangerous tasks, thanks to the full
substitution of labour for capital in these areas (EU-OSHA, 2018, p. 89) or to the development
of new supporting instruments, such as drones, wearable robots, including exoskeletons, with
8 Eurofound (2018b) has identified 10 types of platform work according to: the scale of tasks, the type of service
provision (online or locally delivered), the level of skills required, the client-worker matching process and the system
of work allocation.
9 Defined as those who earn 50 per cent or more of their income via platforms and/or work more than 20 hours a
week via platforms.
10 ETUC Resolution Defining Quality Work: An ETUC action plan for more and better jobs, adopted at the ETUC
Executive Committee on 1314 December 2017.
10
potential use across a range of industries to prevent chronic injuries and support workers. .
Drones for instance are increasingly used for recreational, public and industrial purposes, not
just military. Drones have the potential to prevent construction-related injury and death, toxic
chemical exposures, electrical hazards, or traumatic injury from vehicle and equipment
collisions, Improvements in this area should not be dismissed as unimportant in services
societies, as in 2015, 32 per cent of EU workers had jobs that involved carrying or moving
heavy loads at least a quarter of the time (European Working Conditions Survey 2015). ICT
also facilitates teleworking, which can improve, under some circumstances, worklife balance.
In 2018, according to the ELFS, almost 9 per cent of EU employees teleworked sometimes,
compared with 5.6 per cent in 2002, with countries such as Sweden showing much higher rates
(26 per cent) and growth (in 2002 only 3.3 per cent of employees teleworked occasionally).
But digital technologies are also the source of new occupational safety and health-related risks,
among other things due to the following:
(i) The reduction of workers control of the production process, as the speed and order of
tasks are decided by new digital devices.
(ii) The development of new tools for monitoring (and rewarding) workers might contribute to
increasing levels of anxiety and work pace and a reduction of privacy: “psychosocial and
organizational factors that will become increasingly more important because ICT-ETs can
drive changes in the types of work available; the pace of work; how, where and when it is
done; and how it is managed and overseen” (EU-OSHA, 2018, p.6).
(iii) The blurring of the workprivate life divide, with new demands to be available 24/7 as
permanent reachability is interpreted as permanent availability. As we will see, the debate
on the “right to disconnect”, which has recently been incorporated in French legislation,
reflects the importance of this risk.
(iv) While new technologies help to reduce old health risks, they contribute to the development
of new risks. To name only a few: the use of display screen equipment, DSE, can
contribute to musculoskeletal disorders (such as such as carpal tunnel or tendonitis) and
fatigue and eye strain; the use of body-worn assistive devices (exoskeletons), while
reducing physical stress in some local body areas, might lead to higher levels of stress in
other body regions (EU-OSHA, 2019)
(v) Finally, as a recent report for the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (TNO,
2018) shows, cohabitation with robots poses new OSH risks of at least three kinds: robot–
human collision risks as machine learning can lead to unpredictable robot behaviour;
security risks as robots’ internet links can affect the integrity of software programming,
leading to safety vulnerabilities, and environmental risks due to sensor degradation and
unexpected human actions in unstructured environments.
A recent report on the occupational safety and health implications of the digital transformation
in the European chemicals sector (Kramer, 2019), exemplifies these different vectors of change.
While 50 per cent of the affected workers see a slight to strong decrease of hazardous tasks, 70
per cent consider that there is a risk of increasing levels of psychological stress, especially in
large firms. Overall, around 42 per cent consider that there will be no major overall change in
the general health of the workforce.
2.6 The role of social dialogue
After reviewing the different potential impacts of the Digital Revolution on the labour market,
in this sub-section, that can be considered an introduction to the following section dealing with
the social partners’ response to such challenges, we present a brief speculative account of the
potential role of social dialogue, at different levels, in dealing with these changes.
Table 2 presents the labour market implications of the Digital Revolution, along with a tentative
sketch of the role of social dialogue in addressing such challenges. The first of the effects, the
possible negative impact on total labour demand due to the acceleration of the substitution of
labour for capital, is probably an area for social dialogue at the highest level, as the tools to deal
with such a situation, should it occur, would be largely of a macroeconomic nature and related
11
to expansionary policies of demand management and working time reduction. Nevertheless,
there is also room for social dialogue at the level of the firm regarding the reduction of the
implications of downsizing, through early retirement. For example, in September 2019 the
Spanish ICT company Telefonica announced its intention to reduce its labour force by a fifth
(around 5,000 workers), along the same lines as the previous 2016 plan involving the individual
suspension of employment that affected another 6,000 workers. This reduction in employment,
part of firm collective agreement, is partially driven by the change from analogue to digital
technologies (together with the increase in competition in the sector, once a monopoly).
Social dialogue at the firm level and at sectoral or national level has an important role to play in
reducing the potential negative impact of changes of the employment structure due to technical
change. In this case, the development of new skills and the recycling of employees would
facilitate the transition of displaced workers from low labour demand to high labour demand
sectors of activity. In fact, training has been a traditional area for social dialogue, and in many
countries social partners play an institutional role in the design of training policies. As stated in
a joint document of the European Social Partners11 (German Economic Institute, 2019) “Social
dialogue and collective agreements, in particular at the sectoral level, play an important role in
the governance of training systems and in creating training opportunities and improving the
relevance and provision of employee training” (p. 3).
Regarding the growth of non-standard employment relations, both firm-level and sectoral
collective bargaining can be used to discuss the recourse to such forms of employment
(including plans for their transformation into standard employment relations if considered
convenient). But discussions at a higher level will also probably be needed in order to clarify
whether new forms of employment relations are needed (such as the economically dependent
self-employment developed in some countries, such as Spain or Italy). Collective bargaining, or
other types of social dialogue, could also be extended to the new business model – the platform
which is currently characterized by low participation in employers’ associations and low
affiliation rates. In this regard, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work (2019)
recommends “the development of an international governance system for digital labour
platforms that sets and requires platforms (and their clients) to respect certain minimum rights
and protections” (p.44).
Table 2 Potential role of social dialogue in addressing the labour market challenges of the
Digital Revolution
Potential
impact
Possible policy tools
Higher than firm level
Firm level
Change in
total
employment
demand
Social dialogue at the highest level (national/EU) =>
Social pacts.
Effective demand management and social policies.
Reduction in working hours
Early retirement
Reduction in working hours
Change in
employment
structure
Training and recycling programmes.
Social dialogue at the highest level (national/EU) =>
Social pacts (for example, wage complements)
Training and lifelong learning policies
Early retirement
New skills
and skills
obsolescence
Training and recycling programmes.
Training and lifelong learning policies
New/revival
of old types
of labour
relations
Social dialogue at the highest level (national/EU/ global)
Sectoral collective bargaining.
Develop collective bargaining in new business models.
Firm level collective bargaining (for example, limits to
“new forms” of labour contracts)
Develop collective bargaining in new business models
New health
and safety
issues
Social dialogue at the highest level (national/EU/ global)
Sectoral collective bargaining
Firm level collective bargaining
11 BusinessEurope, CEEP, UEAPME and ETUC.
12
Finally, social dialogue at both national and lower levels, together with occupational safety and
health regulation at EU and national levels, looks like a good arena for discussing new OSH
issues and prevention (Eurofound, 2012; Jain and Leka, 2012).
3. RESPONSE OF THE SOCIAL PARTNERS
After reviewing the potential implications of the Digital Revolution for labour markets and
labour relations, in this section we will analyse how the social partners of the EU Member
States are dealing with these challenges. With that aim, we will first study the social partners
awareness of the challenges ahead and their major concerns. Against that background, the
following section will review the extent to which social dialogue at the EU and national levels
addresses different aspects of the Digital Revolution and how they actually deal with them.
3.1 Level of awareness and concern across EU Member States
The recent ETUI survey of digitalization12 is a good starting point for identifying the level of
concern and involvement of EU trade unions regarding the labour market implications of the
Digital Revolution. At this stage, two elements of the survey can shed light on the concerns and
level of involvement of trade unions regarding the Digital Revolution and its management. In
relation to the first issue, the survey respondents considered that the Digital Revolution entails
both opportunities and risks. Among the opportunities (Figure 4a) those interviewed highlighted
the creation of new STEM-related jobs, working time reductions, more work autonomy, better
ergonomics and new forms of collaboration between workers and machines. Among the risks
(Figure 4b), the destruction of jobs was rated most important, at 52 per cent, well above the
other risks mentioned, namely the weakening of workersrepresentation and erosion of
collective bargaining (31 per cent) and extension of working hours (30 per cent). In this regard,
it is interesting to note how, in the opinion of those surveyed, the Digital Revolution can have
both positive and negative impacts on employment: it can be a new source of jobs but also a
cause of the destruction of jobs, while on one hand there is a promise of working-time
reduction, but also the risk of boundless work demands. The same can be said about autonomy,
as according to the workers, new technologies offer both the possibility of increasing autonomy
and the risk of higher dependence. This is important as implies that the net result could be
dependent on the measures taken, by the social partners among others, to direct the Digital
Revolution in one direction or another.
Regarding the second question, the involvement of trade unions in initiatives related to the
Digital Revolution, such as Industry 4.0 or digital agendas, whether public or at the level of the
employers, more than half of respondents considered the trade union role as important in only
two countries, Sweden and Germany. In Spain, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Belgium
respondents considered that trade unions were only one among many of the stakeholders
consulted. On the other end of the spectrum, in France and Italy the feeling was that trade
unions were not involved at all. This country distribution is also found when asking about the
role of trade unions in initiatives and policies fostering digital skills and lifelong learning: only
in Sweden, Germany and Denmark did more than half consider that trade unions were involved
in such initiatives. On the other hand, in Italy and France the percentage of those who
considered that trade unions play an important role in this area was below 20 per cent (ETUC,
2018, pp. 17).
12 The ETUC online survey on Fair Digitalisation and Workers Participation was run in 2017/18 and obtained more
than 1,500 responses from trade unionists and company level workersrepresentatives from more than 30 European
countries, including from EWCs and SE works councils in more than 220 transnational companies (ETUC, 2018)
13
Figure 4 Risk and opportunity related to the Digital Revolution (first two most important) (%).
Source: ETUC, 2018, pp. 1–14.
Unfortunately, there is no equivalent survey information on the position of employees regarding
the awareness and concerns of EU employers. Regarding concerns, and focusing on those items
related to the labour market, a 2015 BusinessEurope policy paper shows that firms and workers
share some of the abovementioned concerns. “There are also opportunities for workers, such as
more autonomy and flexibility in work organization, more possibilities to balance work and
private life, more learning opportunities, as well as access to more potential work opportunities.
Some existing jobs and areas of activity will evolve; some jobs will disappear, but new
activities will appear, leading to overall employment gains” (p.5) In this context of rapid
change, the key challenge for the firms’ side is “to adapt EU and national skills policies to better
meet the rapidly evolving labour market needs generated by the digital economy” (p.5), as well
as facilitating the “increased work flexibility required by digital industries”, considered as
45
38
28
27
17
9
8
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
50
Creation of new jobs (computer engineers,
scientists, network experts, etc.)
Working time reduction and more work autonomy
Better ergonomics due to support in performing
heavy, dangerous and complex work
New forms of collaboration and cooperation
between workers and machines
Smart/intelligent factories jobs that have been
offshored to low pay countries will come back
New opportunities for women, more gender equality
New forms of making money in the sharing
economy
Most important opportunity
52
31
30
22
21
13
10
010 20 30 40 50 60
Destruction of jobs, new forms of ‘Digital
Taylorism’ and increase of precarious work
Weakening of workers’ representation, erosion of
collective action and bargaining coverage
Working-time extension increase of ‘anytime,
anywhere’ work
Work intensification, dependence of ‘data masters’
and surveillance
Increased competition between workers to reduce
costs, e.g. by online-platform work
Increased inequality between workers
Erosion of tax base and social insurance financing
Most important risk
14
“essential” (p. 9). In a different area, but also with employment implications, BusinessEurope
shows concern for the need to create a level playing-field in taxes and regulation so that both
traditional and digital firms are treated equally (BusinessEurope, 2014, p.3, p.15).
From a different perspective, but also related to the firm side, the CEC European Managers
Survey 2018,13 addressed to European managers, also sheds light on the concerns of the
managers of European firms regarding digital transformation. According to the survey, slightly
over a quarter of respondents consulted with workers representatives in order to implement
digital technologies, while around 50 per cent provided training with that aim. The survey also
covers the drivers behind the introduction of digital technologies, with increasing competition at
the top (60 per cent) and staff cuts at the bottom (20 per cent), although managers consider that
they have been less successful in the former than in the latter. Finally, the introduction of digital
technologies had a positive impact on some aspects of working conditions, such as training or
the introduction of flexible work, but also contributed to the deterioration of others, such as
stress, worklife balance or information overload. Regarding the ethical implications of digital
technologies, almost half the managers surveyed showed concern about the implications for
privacy of digital technologies, followed by transparency and labour rights (23 per cent).
3.2 The presence of issues related to digitalization in social dialogue at different levels.
This section is intended to explore the extent to which firmsand worker organizations’
concerns about the future of work and employment have been translated into actions through
social dialogue. With that aim, we will first review the experiences of social dialogue in this
field at EU level, then at the level of the Member States.
Before starting, it is important to highlight, once again, the huge diversity of EU Member States,
in terms of both their level of economic development and their economic structure and
introduction of digital technologies. To give an example of such differences, Figure 5
reproduces two of the sub-indexes of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) of the
European Commission (EC, 2018): the Business Digitalization Index and the E-Commerce
Index that form the so-called Integration of Digital Technology dimension.14 Although this
index only touches on some of the items related to digitalization, such as the importance of e-
commerce for SMEs and the use social media, e-invoices or cloud solutions, the results, in
terms of the incidence of digital technologies in national firms, are quite revealing, with the
country with the highest value, Ireland (68.7), registering a value almost four times higher than
the value registered by the country with the poorest result, Bulgaria (18.15).
13 The CEC European Managers survey 2018 is a non-representative survey of 1,400 affiliated and non-affiliated
managers within the framework of the European Managers Panel.
14 The Business Digitisation Index includes the following variables (as a percentage of firms using): (a) Electronic
information sharing, (b) Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), (c) Social media, (d) e-invoices (e) Cloud solutions.
The E-commerce index includes the following variables (as a percentage of small and medium-sized enterprises -
SMEs): (a) selling online, (b) e-commerce turnover as a percentage of total turnover of SMEs, (c) selling online
cross-border. The Business Digitisation Index captures the dimension Integration of Digital Technology, while the E-
Commerce Index accounts for the other 40 per cent.
Together with these two sub-dimensions, the DESI includes four other dimensions: connectivity broadband market
developments in the EU; Human Capital Digital Inclusion and Skills; Use of Internet Services by citizens and
Digital Public Services.
15
Figure 5 Integration of digital technology by sub-dimension, EU, 2019
Source: EC, Digital Scoreboard.
Other complementary information, such as the use of robots, buttresses this conclusion.
According to the World Industrial Robots Survey 2017, in 2016, there were around 1,300 robots
per 10,000 workers in Germany or France, while in Poland there were only around 200.
This diversity of penetration of the Digital Revolution, partly explained, in the case of robots,
by countries’ economic structure most robots are used in the automobile sector would
explain how concerns about digitalization among the social partners, as well as the actions taken
to manage it, vary nationally. This diversity permeates public opinion, for example with regard
to the labour market impact of digital technologies. In this regard, according to Eurobarometer
(2018), while 90 per cent of people in Spain and Portugal agree (totally or tend to) that robots
and artificial intelligence steal people´s jobs, in the Scandinavian countries the percentage is
around 53–60 per cent (the EU average is 72 per cent).
As result, the importance of the issues related to the management of the Digital Revolution for
social partners and social dialogue differ substantially across EU Member States (and
industries).
3.2.1 Social dialogue at EU level
As Table 3 shows, in the past decade the social partners have produced a variety of statements
on digitization’s impact on the economy, both at the level of specific sectors, such as chemicals,
pulp and paper or banking, and at cross-industry level. As regards the latter, in March 2016 the
ETUC, BusinessEurope, CEEP and UEAPME15 produced a Statement of the European Social
Partners on Digitalization that stresses how job creation in the context of the digitalization of the
15 Since 2018 SMEunited has been the association of crafts and SMEs in Europe, with around 70 member
organisations from over 30 European countries, CEEP is the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation
and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest, and can be considered the public sector counterpart of
BusinessEurope, the main European-level social partner organisation, representing private employers of all sizes
through its national member federations. The ETUC, the European Trade Union Confederation, is recognised by the
European Union as the only representative cross-sectoral trade union organisation at European level. For more details
see European Observatory of Working Life EurWORK.
68.7
41.1
18.1
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Ireland
Netherlands
Belgium
Denmark
Finland
Sweden
United Kingdom
Lithuania
Malta
Spain
Portugal
Czechia
Germany
European Union
France
Slovenia
Estonia
Luxembourg
Croatia
Austria
Cyprus
Slovakia
Greece
Italy
Latvia
Hungary
Poland
Romania
Bulgaria
4b e-Commerce
4a Business digitisation
16
economy will depend on how successfully European enterprises adapt to technological
developments, and on the extent to which the EU will be able to create a favourable policy and
regulatory environment to safeguard the interests of enterprises and working people at the same
time. It calls on public authorities and social partners at various levelsto assess how best to
adapt skills policies, labour market regulations and institutions, as well as work organization
and information, consultation and participation procedures, in order to derive maximum benefits
for all from the digital transformation”. In fact, the European Social Dialogue Work Programme
2019–2021 includes digitalization as one of the six work lines aimed at improving knowledge,
given that “many aspects of the ongoing digitalization process are not yet clear or understood”.
The aim is to negotiate an autonomous framework agreement on digitalization (European Social
Dialogue Work Program 2019–2021).
Although there are some earlier examples of bipartite statements from the social partners
dealing with digitalization, from 2016 onwards various sectors produced their own texts
regarding the impact of digitalization on their economic activities. In 2016, for example, the
insurance sector, in the Joint Declaration on the Social Effects of Digitalization, presented what
they called thePrinciples of the social design of digitalization”, focusing on, among others
things:
(i) the convenience of using existing labour and social law as a (good) basis for the digitalized
working world;
(ii) the recognition of training as the key element in successfully addressing the challenges
that lie ahead, as digitalization requires new skills and competences on the part of both
employers and employees”;
(iii) new issues regarding work–life balance will arise as digitalization influences customer
behaviour (24/7 availability). Attention should be paid to preventing “counterproductive
forms of work-related stress due to digital availability”, while at the same time addressing
the “growing phenomenon of performing work/services outside business hours”;
(iv) in order to deal in a social way with digital restructuring, companies should consider
doing their utmost to avoid, reduce and mitigate redundancies”; and
(v) digitalization also poses challenges to employee representatives, which should be tackled
with an open mind.
Three years later, the signatories, in a follow up to the 2016 declaration, emphasised training,
especially for workers whose function is likely to disappear, in order to initiate, if necessary,
individual qualification programmes and guidance. Attention is also paid to the “absolute
imperative that the social partners monitor working time limits in a modern way and in line with
applicable legislation and collective agreements, as the increase in autonomy of employees
regarding when and how long to work, although positive for job quality, might increase
psychosocial risks, such as burnout, if not adequately managed.
It is interesting to note that, regardless of the sector of activity, most of the statements
mentioned in Table 3 share the same concerns: new training needs and worklife balance, for
example, highlighting the convenience of dealing with such issues in the context of social
dialogue at different levels. In the words of the statement of the banking sector of 2018: “social
dialogue is key in order to shape the digital transformation of the banking sector”.
There are other examples of agreements of different types between the social partners at
European level on other issues related to the digital transformation of the economy. To name
one, in May 2018 Uni-Europa, the European service workers union, and Euro Commerce,
representing national federations and companies in the retail, wholesale and international trade
sector from 31 European countries, signed a European Agreement on Guidelines on
Teleworking and ICT -Mobile Work (T/ICTM) in Commerce, aimed at updating the pioneering
agreement on the same subject of 2001, to be used as guidelines for introducing and
implementing T/ICTM. Among other things, this agreement stresses the importance of
guaranteeing that social contacts with the workplace and fellow workers is not lost, and the need
to ensure that the introduction of T/ICTM is transparent, respecting existing information and
consultation procedures.
17
Table 3 Documents on digitalization and new technologies adopted by the European social
partners, 2010–2019
Sector
Title
Date
Insurance
Follow-up statement on the social effects of digitalization
15/02/2019
Banking
Joint declaration on the impact of digitalization on employment
30/11/2018
Pulp and paper
Social partner resolution addressing the ongoing digitalization in
the European pulp and paper sector and its potential impact on
industry and employment
06/07/2018
Commerce
European agreement on guidelines on teleworking and ICT-mobile
workers
25/05/2018
Metal
The impact of digitalization on the world of work in the metal,
engineering and technology-based industries
08/12/2016
Chemicals
Joint position on social and employment aspects of digitalization
22/11/2016
Insurance
Joint declaration on the social effects of digitalization by the
European social partners in the insurance sector
12/10/2016
Cross-industry Statement of the European social partners on digitalization
16/03/2016
Local and regional
government
Joint declaration on the opportunities and challenges of
digitalization in local and regional administration
11/12/2015
Telecommunications
Joint UNI Europa/ETNO declaration on future ICT skills needs
28/11/2014
Postal services
Joint declaration on matching skills and jobs in the European postal
sector
21/11/2014
Commerce
Common contribution of the social partners in commerce to some
flagship initiatives ofEU 2020: A European strategy for a smart,
sustainable and inclusive growth
04/08/2010
Source: 2010–17 EC (2018), p. 155; 2018–19: Social dialogue text database, DG EMPL.
Interestingly, a G7 social tripartite declaration was adopted last June 201916. In reference to
the Future of Work, the G7 members and international social partners (IOE, ITUC, TUAC and
Business at OECD) recognise the need to work together “towards the adoption of effective
strategies and appropriate policy responses to promote enabling environments for job creation
and decent work, economic and sustainable growth as well as equal opportunities and reduced
inequalities (…) To that end, we will work to achieve effective responses to shape the future of
work we want, improve the functioning of labour markets, with a specific emphasis on
tripartism and social dialogue”.
3.2.2 Social dialogue regarding digitalization at country level
Regardless of the existence of social dialogue at EU level, which can provide the context for
more specific agreements at national and subnational level and at firm level, most social partner
actions in relation to digitalization have taken place at Member State level. This is due to the
huge diversity of employment regulations and labour market characteristics in the Member
States, their so-calledemployment regimes(Gallie, 2007).
The social partners have been involved in many different national initiatives (15 according to
the European Platform of National Initiatives on Digitizing European Industry) aimed at
contributing to the digitalization of European Industry – including Germany’s Industrie 4.0,
Spain’s Industria Conectada 4.0 and the Dutch and Swedish Smart Industry17 although these
forums go beyond the traditional social dialogue and involve many other stakeholders besides
employers´ organizations and trade unions.
Turning to the traditional arena of social dialogue, Table 4 presents digitalization issues that
have been addressed in various ways (in the context of trade unions, through information and
16 G7 France Biarritz 2019.
17 See Vogel (2017) for an account of the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Spain.
18
consultation or at sectoral or firm level collective agreements), according to the ETUC 2018
survey mentioned above.
Table 4 Topics addressed within your workers’ representation body or organization
% of overall response*
No
Yes, within
union
organization
Yes,
information
and
consultation
Yes,
company
agreement
Yes,
sectoral
collective
agreement
Business
strategy
Change in the business
model/strategy of the company /
sector due to
digitalization
21 26 34 10 2
Outsourcing and offshoring of
work/tasks to online platforms
40 16 22 8 1
New
technologies
Introduction of new digital
technologies, e.g. automation,
robots, digital devices such as
handhelds, tablets, data glasses,
smart gloves, etc.
24 19 32 15 2
Changes in work organization
and work processes linked to
the application of digital
technologies
20 21 37 14 2
Working time
Work–life balance or working
time issues related to
digitalization
30 21 21 11 4
Telework and ICT mobile work
28
15
21
22
5
Right to disconnect
41
19
15
8
2
Training and
qualification
Changes in occupational
profiles and qualification
28 18 28 8 3
Further training and acquisition
of new skills through
digitalization of production or
service
29 19 29 8 3
Data
protection
Introduction of technologies to
monitor performance and
behaviour
32 14 23 17 1
Protection of personal data, e.g.
gathered in the context of ICT
work, automation
processes, etc.
23 19 23 19 2
Health and
safety
Health and safety, stress,
psychosocial risks, e.g. related
to ICT-based mobile
work, digital devices and tools
26 21 28 11 5
Representation
of new types
of workers in
the digital
economy
Competences of employee
interest representations to
address and represent the
interests ofperipheral
workers, e.g. freelancers,
dependent self-employed,
sub-contract workers, etc.
43 23 12 4 1
Note: * Share of respondents indicatingdon’t know(6 to 17 per cent) is not included.
Source: ETUC (2018), p. 23.
It is interesting to note that, first, many of the topics mentioned have not been addressed at all
by trade unions. The high percentage of negative answers regarding the representation of new
19
workers related to the Digital Revolution (freelancers, dependent self-employed, sub-contracted
workers) is especially striking. Second, information and consultation, a less intensive form of
social dialogue, is the mechanism most widely used to deal with these issues. As highlighted by
ETUC (2018), this is a particular cause for concern as the survey sample is likely to be biased
towards large companies, in which workers’ representation still exists. The second most widely
used mechanism for dealing with these issues is the firm-level collective agreement, mentioned
by 12 per cent of respondents. The percentage is larger (over one-third) regarding changes in
organization resulting from the introduction of new (including digital) technologies, followed
by training and health and safety issues (in nearly 30 per cent of cases). Working time issues
have been addressed in around 20 per cent of cases. In contrast, only 2.5 per cent of respondents
mention sectoral collective agreements as the mechanism used to address these issues. This
reliance on firm-level agreements is logical, as decisions about the introduction of new
technology are taken at that level. According to the EMP 2018 Survey, however, both firms and
sectors are affected by the same issues, so bargaining at sectoral level could make sense, too.
In order to illustrate in greater detail the coordinates of the debate and the type of agreements
reached by social dialogue at country level, in what follows we will review some country
experiences using different sources of information, among them the results of an ongoing cross-
country project (2018–2020) DIRESOC, financed by the EC, focused on digitalization and
social dialogue. Due to the ongoing nature of the Digital Revolution, it is beyond the scope of
this chapter to present a complete analysis of the role of social dialogue in the process of
introduction of these new technologies and organization-related changes. The idea is to give a
general idea of what is being done across different sectors and EU countries.
The right of French workers to disconnect addressed by the so-called El Khomri Act, after the
minister of labour at the time, is a good example of the interplay between regulation and social
dialogue in dealing with new challenges to working conditions posed by the Digital Revolution.
Among the many aspects of labour relations covered by the law, most aimed at deregulating the
French labour market, Loi no. 2016-1088 du 8 août 2016 relative au travail, à la modernisation
du dialogue social et à la sécurisation des parcours professionnels included an article (Art. 55)
introducing the right to disconnect from work calls and emails during non-working hours.
Nevertheless, the specific regulation of this right was left to the social partners, with the
provision that if no agreement was reached, the firm could unilaterally implement its rules. This
initiative has been followed by many other countries (such as Italy and Spain) and territories
(such as New York City). In the Spanish case, the procedure followed is quite different, being
included in the Protection of Personal Data and Guarantee of Digital Rights Act.18 This law also
addresses the right to intimacy and use of digital devices at work, recognizing the right of
workers’ representatives to participate in the development of regulations on the use of digital
control devices.
Continuing with the French case, Teissier (2018) argued that the usual tools and practices of
social dialogue are still valid: “if you need to cut jobs, you’ll have to discuss a social plan or
whatever, digitalization or not(p. 37), although the new challenges might justify the setting
up of new areas, tools and processes, i.e. to enrich social dialogue”(p.37), some of which are
already running (such as the sectoral skills and employment observatory or the Employment and
Expertise Plans, GPEC).
In Spain, technical change and digitalization has a small presence in collective agreements.
According to the Statistics on Collective Agreements, in 2016 only a small number of collective
agreements had clauses on Digital Revolution issues. For example, in 2016, only 3 per cent of
collective agreements (2.42 per cent of employees covered by collective agreements) included
agreements on telework, while only 2.9 per cent (4 per cent of the relevant employees) dealt
with the adoption of new technologies. In both cases, these issues are dealt with mainly in
collective agreements at the firm level. From a temporal perspective, it is interesting to note that
the share of collective agreements dealing with such issues has decreased since the Great
18 Ley Orgánica 3/2018 de 5 de diciembre de Protección de datos personales y garantía de los derechos digitales”, art.
88, Right to digital disconnection in the labour context, to be developed by collective bargaining.
20
Recession, from a maximum of 8.5 per cent in 2008 to 4 per cent in 2016.19 According Rocha
and De la Fuente (2018), the meagre almost irrelevant, in their opinion role of tripartite
social dialogue in digitalization is explained by the stalemate that emerged during the long and
deep economic crisis of 2009–2013 and by the government’s preference for “public
consultation” instead of the traditional social dialogue when dealing with the Digital
Revolution. The political paralysis produced by three general elections from 2015 to 2019 also
explains the lack of advance of social dialogue at tripartite level, the weak spot of the nascent
process of digitalization in Spain, according to the main Spanish trade union CC.OO.
(Fundación 1º de Mayo/CC.OO Industria, 2018). In the few cases in which social dialogue deals
with issues related with the Digital Revolution, Rocha and De la Fuente (2018) observe that
digitalization is often brought to the bargaining table ex-post, in order to deal with the
consequences of technical change, and not ex-ante, developing anticipatory measures.
Moreover, in a landscape dominated by micro firms, with very few medium-sized and large
companies, Spain suffers from a relatively low level of innovation (according to the European
Innovation Scoreboard, Spain is in the group of moderate innovation countries, along with Italy,
Cyprus or Portugal). In fact, the authors highlight how the emerging collective agreements
addressing digitalization belong mainly to multi-national corporations operating in highly
competitive global sectors. Nevertheless, things seem to be moving, albeit slowly. One example
is the 2018 national agreement of the hospitality industry, signed by the two main Spanish trade
unions, which explicitly includes delivery of food and drinks, including those coordinated
through digital platforms (Rocha, 2019).
In Italy, there are also important differences between sectors, due to the existence of strong
territorial and socio-economic dualisms. According to Leonardi and Di Nunzio (2018), the main
concerns among social partners regarding the Digital Revolution, in line with the results of
Table 4, are the occupational impact in terms of job destruction and employment shifts,
investments in industry 4.0, the legal status of platform digital workers, individual and
collective rights and protections and the effects of the new ICT on workers’ privacy. The
existing system of industrial relations (strong social partner representativeness and intensive
social dialogue) has been fundamental in coping with digital-related restructuring, especially in
sectors with good communication channels and high affiliation rates, such as banking or post.
Nevertheless, as in the Spanish case, the response has been mainly reactive and ex-post, not
proactive and ex-ante, looking at mitigating the structural impact of digitalization in both
sectors. In banking, which is highly exposed to digitalization (ATMs, internet banking), but also
highly unionized, technological redundancies have been dealt with by early retirement schemes,
while the last National Sectoral Collective Agreement introduced training rights for workers
(albeit a meagre 24 hours over three years). Postal services (which has been strongly affected
by the Digital Revolution, for example, the substitution of regular mail by e-mail) also offers a
good example of the role played by social dialogue in digital transformation. According to EC
data, between 2004 and 2011, in Italy, letter mail decreased by 28 per cent, while from 2012 to
2017 domestic postal traffic, letter mail and parcel services decreased by 34.5 per cent.20 The
2017 national agreement aimed, among other things, atjoint management between the social
partners of the social consequences of the implementation of the reorganization and/or
restructuring and/or transformation processes that have effects on working conditions, including
collective mobility”. In fact, the agreement included the creation of a Post Group Committee
(trade union and company) to study technological innovation with a potential impact on
business and competitiveness (Art. 5). In this regard, the trade union played an important role in
reducing the closure of postal offices from 500 to 200 (Leonardi and Di Nunzio, 2018).
Italy is also among first countries in which a territorial collective agreement was signed by
institutional trade unions, workers’ autonomous collectives and the management of a platform
firm, the food-delivery company “Sgnam-MyMenu”, setting a fixed hourly rate in line with the
sector´s minimum wage, compensation for overtime, holidays, bad weather and bicycle
maintenance compensation (Aloisi, 2019, p. 2). In May 2019, another food delivery firm,
19 Author´s analysis from Estadística de Convenios Colectivos, several years.
20 European Commission, GROWTH Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Postal Services.
21
Laconsegna, signed a collective agreement with Filt Cgil, Fit Cisl and Uiltrasporti, which
included the consideration of riders as employees covered by the collective agreement of the
logistics sector. Furthermore, a works council was created, the first in Italy at a platform firm
(Daugareilh et al., 2019, p. 72).
Sweden should be especially well prepared to deal with the impact of the Digital Revolution due
to its well-established system of collective bargaining and high (if decreasing) affiliation rates.
According to Anxo (2019), “the Swedish model of industrial relations relies on powerful,
independent and all-encompassing employer´s and workers´ organizations” (p. 399), which
should facilitate a smooth transition for workers affected by the digital transformation (OECD,
2018, p. 15). According to Bergström and Ismail (2019), LO, the Swedish trade union
confederation, has traditionally favoured technical and structural change as a way to guarantee
the high productivity that will allow good working conditions. In this regard, digitalization is
not considered new, but “business as usual”. Conflict between the social partners arises from the
implications of technical change in the era of digitalization. While trade unions focus on the
growth of new forms of non-standard and precarious employment, employers argue that
digitalization provides a rationale for changes in labour regulation. In contrast, both parties
agree on the need to improve and reform the Swedish education system in order to better adapt
to the new needs and further develop lifelong learning (Bergström and Ismail, 2019).
Sweden also offers an interesting example of the extension of collective agreements to the
platform economy. A case in point is the agreement signed by Bzzt (a platform of personal
transport by tuck tuck), which allows Bzzt drivers –hired on marginal part time contract- to be
covered by the Taxi agreement (Swedish Transport Workers’ Union). Another example is the
agreement signed between Instajobs (platform for student work) and Unionen, by which
Instajobs workers are covered by the collective agreement for temporary agency workers. The
same option has been followed by Gigstr (low-skilled gigs) (Jenes et al., 2019). In this regard,
an economist working at Unionen (Söderqvist, 2017) proposed a platform institution aimed at
creating digital standards for the platform economy. Standards would be agreed in negotiations
between platform firms, trade unions and the relevant government agencies, and would serve as
guidelines for platform firms.
The use of existing collective agreement provisions in discussions on algorithm-based
management practices or ethical aspects of the implementation of occupational safety-related
tracking devices is an example of the versatility of Swedish social dialogue in addressing the
challenges of digitalization (Söderqvist and Bernhardtz, 2019).
In 2012 Portugal adopted a Digital Agenda, which has subsequently been updated through
various initiatives, including:
(i) Estratégia TIC 2020, aimed at the digital transformation of public administration.
(ii) INCoDe.2030, an integrated public policy initiative aimed at improving digital
competences, including the so-called AI Portugal 2030, aimed at scaling up public and
private investmentsto allow state-of-the-art AI applications into the market so that the
economy and the public sector can use the foreseeable benefits of AI(INCoDe.2030, p.
17); and
(iii) Indústria 4.0, the Portuguese strategy to develop industry in the digital domain.
According to the available information, there has been no direct social partner involvement in
the design or follow up of these programmes (Gasparri and Tassinari, 2017). In fact, regarding
Indústria 4.0, the Portuguese trade union Fiequimetal, the metalworkers’ federation of the
largest confederation, CGTP-IN (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses
Intersindical Nacional), has criticized the lack of union involvement (Gasparri and Tassinari,
2017).
Regarding Digital Revolution issues in collective bargaining, Rego’s analysis (2018), based on
the collective bargaining reports of the Centro de Relações Laborais, identified ten collective
agreements between 2016 and 2018 that included some sortof technological topics, such as
the promotion of training to facilitate technological adaptation. Furthermore, the potential
implications of the Digital Revolution are not considered in the 2018 tripartite agreement
Combater a precariedade e reduzir a segmentação laboral e promover um maior dinamismo da
22
negociação coletiva(Fighting precariousness and reducing labour segmentation and fostering
more active collective bargaining) signed on June 2018, which includes only references to the
need tomodernize and dematerialize”, creating a web portal as the default mechanism of
communication with citizens and firms for the Labour Inspectorate (Autoridade para as
Condiçoes de Trabalho).
In the United Kingdom, the TUC laments, in a 2015 paper (TUC, 2017), the current low levels
of government and business investment that might jeopardize the future UK role in the coming
digital economy and demanding a strategy of worker consultation (at both national and
workplace level) to shape the future of digitalization. Also highlighted in the document are the
need to overhaul investment in training:All workers should have access to a mid-life training
review to assess their skills, and despite their chequered history, government will need to
reintroduce individual learning accounts to give everyone a personalized budget for training(p.
7) and toensure that if the productivity benefits from new technology do show up, the rewards
are fairly shared” (p. 7).21 In any case, the relatively low rate of collective agreement coverage,
26 per cent of employees, and 14.7 per cent22 of private sector employees in 2018, implies that
in the private sector by far the most common way of fixing pay and working conditions is
unilateral management decision (even if filtered by the labour market situation). In the public
sector, pay is usually set through nationally negotiated collective agreement. In fact, affiliation
rate in the public sector is 52.5 per cent compared with 13.2 per cent in the private sector.
A good example of the marginal role played by social dialogue in implementation of the Digital
Revolution is the 2017 UK Digital Strategy,23 in which, to our best knowledge, there is no
reference to the role of the social partners. Although social dialogue has been successful in areas
such as the establishment of the Low Pay Commission and the Women and Work Commission
or in the improvement of training by firms (Broughton, 2008), it does not seem that the road to a
digital economy in the United Kingdom is going to be guided by social dialogue.
As in other countries, trade unions and employers’ associations, in this case the GMB union and
the CBI, maintain conflicting views regarding some of the effects of digitalization. While a
GMB report pointed to the poor working conditions of many precarious workers, the CBI
described the UK´s flexible labour market as aninvaluable asset” (Evans, 2017).
Paradoxically, considering the low coverage of collective agreements in the private sector, in
February 2019 the United Kingdom joined Italy and Denmark in the avant-garde of platform
worker bargaining with the signing of an agreement by Hermes, a courier company, with the
GMB. The agreement included holiday pay and minimum wages and provided union
recognition for gig workers. It is important to note that this agreement came after Hermes
courier workers won the right to be considered “workersat an employment tribunal.24
In Germany, the publication in 2015 by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the
green paper Working 4.0: Thinking Further about Work, produced a debate among the social
partners in different position papers. For example, Gesamtmetall (the employers’ association for
metal and electrical engineering) did not consider it necessary to increase data protection and
codetermination rights, while the BDA (Confederation of Employers’ Associations) emphasised
the need to ensure that the new technology is not accompanied by morered tape”. In contrast,
the DGB (Confederation of German Trade Unions) argued in favour of setting new rules for the
new types of employment relations that could flourish with the new digital economy, such as
platform work (Eurofound, 2017). In the White Paper Arbeit 4.0 published the following year,
among other things, the Ministry argued in favour of drafting a new law (Working Time Choice
21 Other issues covered include consideration of a policy of working time reductions should technological
unemployment happen, bringing forward an increase in the state pension age to 68, and the need to keep watch on
other aspects of new technology, such as the rise in surveillance at work or working conditions in platform
companies.
22 Trade Union Membership Statistics, 2018, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK
Government.
23 An overarching document setting out ‘how we will build on our success to date to develop a world-leading digital
economy that works for everyone’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-digital-strategy).
24 The Guardian, 4/02/2019: ‘Hermes to offer gig economy drivers better rights under union deal’.
23
Act, Wahlarbeitszeitgesetz), which would combine greater choice for workers in relation to
working time and location, with a conditional possibility to derogate certain provisions of the
Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz) on the basis of a collective agreement between the social
partners with implementation at firm level. The acknowledgement that the Digital Revolution
will go beyond Industry 4.0, together with the potential profound implications of new
employment relations, for example related to platforms, make it advisable, according to the
report, to strengthen collective bargaining in the services and care sectors, a process that could
eventually lead to a generally binding collective agreement for the social sector (pp. 10–
11).25 Other issues covered by the report are increasing employee data protection and studying
whether new forms of employment related to crowd working might need regulation, taking “the
long-standing, tried-and-tested regulations for home workers” (p.12) as a model.
Looking now at the practice of social dialogue in relation to digitalization, it is worth
mentioning two conclusions reached by Mühge (2018) after studying this issue in tourism,
finance, postal service/logistics and industry. The first conclusion is that the impact of
digitalization and the role played by social dialogue in the different sectors are fairly diverse
(high in finance and logistics, low in tourism). The second is that, also with sectoral differences,
an increase in the importance of employee participation is observed”. This increase,
nevertheless, has led to a growing tension between increasing demands and insufficient
resources among works councils, as well as a lack of support:It is the unanimous opinion of
interviewees and experts that digitalization is exacerbating the burden on works councils(p.
23). “(p.23).26
In Finland, in a context in which public opinion is relatively optimistic about the future
implications of the Digital Revolution (Pulkka, 2019), labour market organizations, including
the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions (SA), the Confederation of Finnish industries
(EKK) and the Office for the Government as Employer (VTML), in 2019 agreed on joint
principles concerning digitalization and AI. The endorsed document, Digitalising Finland is an
Opportunity: A Big Leap Forward in Employee Wellbeing and in Labour Productivity,
emphasizes the importance of broadening workers’ skill sets in order to make it easier to adapt
to changes of occupation in a context of employer–employee collaboration: “It is desirable that
management and employees together see what future work skills are needed and that
workplaces together seek ways to acquire these skills.”
The programme27 of the newly elected coalition government (five parties) of 2019 includes, in
its labour market section, the objective (objective 3) of “stability and trust in the labour market
through collective bargaining”. This objective considers measures such as:
(i) studying the need for changes in legislation from the perspective of the transformation of
work (entrepreneurs and self-employed, the sharing and platform economy, new forms of
commissioning work and cooperatives), including the amendment of the Employment
Contract Act, if necessary, to prevent employment from arising under the guise of other
contractual relationships;
(ii) anticipation of structural change, especially due to technological advances and climate
change;
(iii) development of a multiannual national development programme for work and wellbeing at
work to accelerate the renewal of modes of operation and the use of new technology.
The high affiliation rates and collective agreement coverage, as well as its level of insertion in
the digital economy makes Denmark another interesting country with regard to how the Digital
25 In fact, the report makes a strong defence of social dialogue: ‘To achieve new flexibility compromises, we should
examine further incentives and instruments to support social partnership, collective bargaining coverage and the
establishment of works councils. Rather than simply seeking to slow the erosion of collective bargaining coverage
and staff representation, which has been evident over recent decades, we should endeavour to reverse this trend’ (p.
13).
26 For more example of firm level collective agreements regarding digitalisation see section five of
chapter 5 in this volume.
27 Inclusive and competent Finland a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society
(https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/rinne/government-programme)
24
Revolution is affecting the world of work. In 2017, the Danish government established the
Disruption Council. It is headed by the prime minister and comprises seven ministers and 29
members, including CEOs, social partners, academics and others, and its mandate is to discuss
the best course for Denmark to navigate into the future (Danish Government, 2019, p. 6).
Among its concerns regarding labour market policies, the Disruption Council highlights:
(1) the need to strengthen the Danish adult and continuing training system and lifelong
learning;
(2) the need to monitor developments in the area of platform work to ensure that the
government and social partners find the proper solutions within the framework of the
Danish model (see below); and
(3) the risk of greater social division. This risk, so far, has been confronted by the government
by entering into a tripartite agreement with the social partners (2017) on an improved and
more flexible adult and continuing training system, the simplification of employment rules
and the creation of a new unemployment benefit system for self-employed persons and
atypical workers, harmonizing, to a great extent, the rules governing them with those
governing regular employees.
In this context of intense social dialogue, Denmark is credited with the first collective
agreement between a platform company, Hilfr (which provides cleaning services for around
1,700 customers across Denmark) and (via the Confederation of Danish Industry) the largest
Danish trade union, 3F. Under the agreement, there is a minimum wage of 141 kroner (about 19
euros as of August 2018), workers are entitled to contributions to pensions, holiday pay and
sickness benefits (Eurofound, 2019). The importance of this agreement, in the words of Tina
Møller Madsen, leader of 3F Services and chief negotiator with Hilfr, is that “with this
collective agreement we are bridging the Danish labour market modeland new digital
platforms; by doing so we are offering initial answers to one of the major issues of our time:
how to reap the benefits of new technology without undermining labour rights and proper
working conditions”.28. A novel feature of this collective agreement is that it introduces a new
category of workers, the so-called Super Hilfrs, the default option for those workers who meet
certain conditions (100 hours of work).
A casual review of Danish collective agreements shows that the implications of technological
change are not unusual items in collective agreements. For example, agreements for the meat
industry, between the Danish Food and Allied Workers’ Union, NNF, and the Confederation of
Danish Industry, DI, include various technological agreements and a general agreement by
which the parties agree to work towards ensuring that the current employees will be used for
the operation of new technology. In support of this, the provision on systematic training
planning of the training protocol may be applied(pp. 71–72). 29
All in all, as we can see in Table 5, that collects examples of intervention of social partners
dealing with the effects of the digital revolution at different levels of social dialogue, the
overview of country cases conducted in these pages shows that the social partners are both
aware of the potential, and uncertain, implications of the Digital Revolution, and, albeit
unevenly among countries, have taken them into account in their daily work. As mentioned in
the minutes of a TUAC (trade union advisory committee to the OECD) meeting held in Paris on
Digitalization and the Digital Economy (OECD, 2017b), trade union activities regarding
digitalization include the use of collective agreements to monitor the introduction of new digital
technologies; monitoring compliance with labour standards in the context of rapid changes in
the world of work; extending their activities to new groups of workers such as self-employed
28World’s first collective agreement between platform company and trade union in Denmark’, Thursday 20
September 2018, UNI Europa global union.
29 Similar agreements can be found in many other collective agreements in quite different sectors, such as banking:
Where the introduction of new technology leads to job losses, the Group must always endeavour to offer the affected
employees another job. The joint consultation committee must in general discuss education and training, as well as
deployment, retraining or other employment for employees affected by the changes(Collective agreement for the
Danske Bank Group 1 April 2014 - 31 March 2017, p. 118-9)
25
and platform workers; participating in training schemes to facilitate stability of employment in a
word of rapid change of jobs and tasks within and between firms; and participating in advisory
groups on digital innovation at different levels.
These activities are carried out using the standard tools of social dialogue, but also new digital
tools. In Section 4 we reflect on how these new digital tools are changing the way trade unions
work.
4. CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF THE NEW DIGITAL
TECHNOLOGIES FOR TRADE UNIONS AND EMPLOYERS`
ORGANIZATIONS: NEW TOOLS FOR NEW TIMES
Along with the transformations of the world of work reviewed in Section 2, the Digital
Revolution is also affecting the way the social partners, especially trade unions, perform their
mission and relate to their constituencies, as the composition of the labour force changes and
new ways of doing and communicating things develop. This section focuses not on the labour
market and labour relations impact of digitalization, but its effects on the social partners
themselves. This includes the extent to which the Digital Revolution will have, or is already
having, an impact on the way the social partners themselves work.
Following Ward and Lusoni (2002), the ICT and Digital Revolution could lead to three different
scenarios regarding trade unions. The first would be a future of erosion due to: (i) the growth of
sectors or types of employment with traditionally lower affiliation rates, (ii) the development of
an individualistic culture, inclined toward individual bargaining of working conditions and (iii)
an inability to adopt new technologies and social media in their daily work, and benefit from
what Bennett and Segerber (2012) call connective action”, along with traditional collective
action.
The second scenario is modernization, as new ICT technologies could contribute to updating
trade union bureaucracy, allowing the development of online custom-made services and
professional assistance (Diamond and Freeman, 2002), better targeting and recruiting of
members, and a modernization of the trade unions’ public image.
The third scenario would be the democratization of trade unions, as new digital technologies
allow the use of new tools for members’ participation in decisions and debates, in what
Diamond and Freeman (2002) call Cyber-democracy, opening up trade unions to a wider
audience.
Interestingly, there is very little literature on this issue in relation to employers’ associations.
This is also applies to many other social dialogue issues. What literature there is on the future of
social dialogue on the company side briefly touches on the unwillingness of new digital firms to
join traditional employers‘associations. According to a recent report (Kilhoffer et al., 2017, p.
31),none of the evidence surveyed indicates that platforms are organizing into employer
associations or being incorporated into existing employer associations”. According to Kiess
(2019), Germany-based platforms do not seem to be particularly interested in entering into
traditional industrial relations. This should come as no surprise, as platforms do not consider
themselves to be employers”.30
30 On the other side, traditional firms tend to consider platforms to be competitors, and not always fair competitors,
due to their ability to avoid the non-labour wage costs and other costs that they must face. There is no evidence of
established employer associations inviting platforms to join them (Kilhoffer et al., 2017).
26
Table 5. Examples of social dialogue at different levels dealing with new technologies and the digital revolution in six European countries.
Country
Level
National Sectoral Regional Enterprise
Belgium
National Collective Agreement
on protection of employee’s
private lives No. 81 (2002)
protects private lives of
employees with respect to
controls on electronic online
communications data
Finance sector: Protocol on ‘talent
mobility’: Pathways for workers whose
jobs may be under threat due to digital
transformation. Those who commit to a
pathway will benefit from the help of
coaches, who have been trained on the
problems affecting the sector, as well as a
‘Talent Mobility’ digital platform
Denmark
2017 tripartite agreement on
improved and more flexible
adult and continuing training
system
Agreements for the meat industry on
specific technological agreements and a
general agreement on the use by
employees of new technology in
exchange of systematic training
Collective agreement at the platform cleaning services
company Hilfr on minimum wage, contributions to pensions
savings, holiday pay and sickness benefits of platform workers
Finland
2019 agreement on joint
principles of digitalisation and
AI, aimed at broadening
workers’ skills to changes in
occupation etc.
Italy
2017 National agreement in the postal
sector to reduce employment reduction
through mobility etc.
Territorial CA signed by
institutional trade unions,
workers’ autonomous
collectives and the management
of a platform firm, the food-
delivery company “Sgnam-
MyMenu”
Laconsegna CA which includes the consideration of riders as
employees covered by the collective agreement of the logistics
sector.
Agreement in the sector of Logistics
Electric power sector: Individual right to
training, which amounts to 28 hours per
employee over three years
Lamborghini: Commitment to establish a bilateral commission
with the purpose of negotiating the issue of so-called ‘Big Data
availability’, which consists of assessing to whom the data
produced by the company’s IT systems will be availablethe
workers or the company only.
27
Portugal
Inclusion of clauses regarding training for better adaptation to
digital transformation and professional retraining (Reconversão
profissional) in different firms e.g.: “Acordo de empresa entre
a Caima - Indústria de Celulose, SA e FIEQUIMETAL e
outros” or “Acordo de empresa entre a Portway - Handling de
Portugal, SA e o Sindicato Democrático dos Traba
lhadoresdos Aeroportos e Aviação SINDAV”
Spain
XIX Collective Agreement of the
chemical Industry (2018-2020) regarding
the assessment of occupational risk
related to the introduction of new
technologies, ex-ante information when
the introduction of new technologies is
expected to produce substantial changes
in working conditions or a technical
training.
Collective agreement for HORECA
of the province of Segovia (2018-
2021) including right of
information regarding the
introduction of new technology:
“The introduction of new
technologies should not lead to the
reduction of employment” (art. 33).
With that aim training or
reallocation of the worker should be
provided
Different CAs dealing with training for Industry 4.0 (XIX
Collective Agreement of Seat SA, 2016-2020); right to
disconnect (IX Framework Agreement of Repsol Group,
2017-2019; Philips Ibérica, 2018-2020; AXA 2017-2020),
telework (AXA 2017-2020); right to information on new
technologies (Renault Spain, 2017-20); etc.
Sweden
Tripartite industrial dialogue on
digitalization (2016),
restructuring and matching
(2017) or new technologies
(2018), concerned with general
strategies, in the form of
exchanges of opinions.
Agreement signed by Bzzt (a platform of personal transport
by tuck tuck), which allows Bzzt drivers to be covered by
the Taxi agreement (Swedish Transport Workers’ Union).
Other examples are Instajobs (platform for student work),
Gigstr (low-skilled gigs).
Source: based on references cited in the chapter, EurWork (Eurofound) and Planet Labor.
28
The three scenarios reviewed above have items in common, namely the need to adopt new ways
of mobilizing workers, to reach areas of employment now on the fringes of trade unions, such as
temporary employees and younger workers,31 to incorporate the communication possibilities
offered by social media, and to benefit from big data, as digital companies do, to improve their
services and reach.
In this regard, Pasquier and Wood (2018) argue that trade unions can use the new tools supplied
by the Digital Revolution to reach out to new groups of workers and develop new forms of
action. For example, social media can amplify traditional “offline” collective action (the Cyber-
dispute hypothesis of Diamond and Freeman, 2002). The web, and social media in general, is
becoming an important space for industrial disputes, enhancing the legitimacy of campaigns by
highlighting workers’ personal testimonies, connecting the movement with activist networks
and supporting the emergence of new forms of collective action. The potentialities of digital
technologies to connect to workers outside traditional workplaces is also highlighted by the ILO
(2019, p. 59).
The internet can also be used to develop new virtual spaces, where workers can discuss issues in
a bottom-up manner, Worknets, and informal real-time social dialogue, Social Digilogue, to use
the European Commission’s neologism (2019, p. 40).
Other interesting avenues for the future are the use of the information that trade unions have on
affiliates and firms to do a kind of predictive unionism (Maxwell, 2018). Based on data mining
of members, firms and other sources, trade unions could offer tailored information about fair
wages to their members (controlling for characteristics), underpayment and so on. A pioneering
example of such predictive unionism is the work of Fredrik Söderqvist, a trade union researcher
in Unionen, a Swedish trade union with nearly 650,000 members (10 per cent of Sweden’s
working-age population) who is working on an algorithm based on the gargantuan individual
and aggregate data available to the trade union to extract patterns to improve bargaining
outcomes.
Trade unions are also opening up to new working environments, such as platforms and “solo”
self-employment. In some cases, as exemplified by the Spanish UGT, the first step is to research
the working conditions of platform workers (UGT, 2019). According to the UGT, union
involvement in the area was a response to the numerous queries regarding platform work made
to a digital platform (www.turespuestasindical.es) developed in 2017 as a tool for contacting
platform workers and supplying legal advice. The other major Spanish trade union, CC.OO, is
also involved in the fight for recognition of platform workers at firms such as Delivero and
Glovo as employees, instead of own-account workers. It has developed another webpage,
https://precaritywar.es/ as a communication and complaints tool.
Other strategies include the legal backing offered by some trade unions to platform workers,
notably riders, in their legal disputes (for example, the IWGB and Delivero riders), the
integration of groups of platform workers in trade unions, as in the Netherlands or the United
Kingdom, or cooperation between trade unions worldwide to promote good practices in
platform work (Rocha, 2019).
One important example of this last strategy is the Fair Crowd Work joint project of IG Metall
(the German Metalworkers' Union), the Austrian Chamber of Labour, the Austrian Trade Union
Confederation and the Swedish white collar union Unionen, in association with research and
development partners Encountering Tech and M&L Communication Marketing. Fair Crowd
Work gathers information, based on surveys of workers, about crowd work, app-based work and
other platform-based work”, from the perspective of workers and unions. The information is
then used to generate ratings of the working conditions of different online labour platforms.32
31 For the OECD, the affiliation rate of temporary employees is 9 per cent, less than half the affiliation rate of
employees with open ended contracts. Young employees (aged 15-24) have an affiliation rate of 7 per cent, compared
with 22 per cent of workers aged 2264. (OECD, 2017c). Nevertheless, according to the OECD (OECD, 2019), these
differences are largely explained by the characteristics of employment (for example, employment in sector with lower
trade union U presence and non-standard employment relations), and not by a lower trust in trade unions or different
values among younger people (OECD, 2019, Box 5.1).
32 The 95-question survey covers eight different areas: (i) basic demographics (for example, age, location, gender),
(ii) general experiences as a platform worker, including hours worked per week, and history of crowd working, (iii)
29
This strategy can be accompanied by the development of a code of conduct for crowdsourcing
platforms, as the Ombudsman for German Crowdsourcing Platforms established in 2017 by
eight European crowdsourcing platforms, the German Crowdsourcing Association (Deutscher
Crowdsourcing Verband), and the German Metalworkers’ Union (IG Metall), tasked with
resolving disputes between crowdworkers, clients and crowdsourcing platforms, as well as with
overseeing enforcement of the Crowdsourcing Code of Conduct adopted by the platforms.
These moves could eventually end up, as happened with the Foodora riders in Vienna, in the
establishment of works councils.33 The Austrian social partners have also agreed the first
collective agreement for bicycle couriers, including workers working for traditional companies
and platforms, but excluding those working as independent contractors.34
5. CONCLUSIONS
Our review of the challenges to social dialogue posed by the Digital Revolution, and the social
partners’ response to them leaves many uncertainties, but has also established some facts.
Starting with the former, and always from a positive perspective it is vital to know what we
don’t knowour review of the implications of the Digital Revolution for labour and the labour
market in Section 2 points to many potential impacts of digitalization on work, in different
directions, which could lead to totally different scenarios regarding the future of labour.
Regardless of the numerous prophecies of the end of work, there seems to be what we might
call a growing consensus among the social partners that the new digital technologies, at least in
the short and medium term, will have more impact on the type of employment generated than on
its level. This highlights the importance of providing workers with the skills they need to adapt
to the new labour demands. As in other issues, the existing consensus regarding the importance
of training, upskilling and recycling throughout working life starts to unravel when it comes to
deciding who should pay for such growing training needs: firms, the public sector or the
employees. This issue is especially thorny when, due to the uncertainty surrounding technical
change, the most efficient form of training may well be the improvement of general skills and
competences, not firm-specific training.
The growth of non-standard employment is another potential impact of the Digital Revolution.
Having said that, it is important to acknowledge that non-standard employment relations were
already increasing in the past, although it is true that the reduction of transaction costs related to
cheap access to growing amounts of data and processing make such employment viable in new
areas of economic activity. The social partners’ acknowledgment of the social and economic
implications of these new forms of jobs has led, once again, to a variety of positions: the need to
adapt to the new realities of work, on the firmsside, expanding the traditional forms of social
protection to the new groups of workers, versus the need to enforce current labour legislation in
order to eliminate the loopholes that favour the growth of non-standard relations, on the trade
union side.
Finally, new technologies will contribute to the reduction of some health and safety risks but
will also generate new risks that will have to be addressed, as in the past, by governments and
social partners. The new challenge will be more closely related to psychosocial risks than to
physical ones.
Social dialogue has a say in the management of all these changes, if at different levels. In some
cases, such as growing technical unemployment, tripartite social dialogue, at national or even
pay and non-payment, (iv) communication with clients, platform operators, and other workers, (v) reviews, ratings,
and evaluation of workers and clients, (vi) experiences with platform technology (for example, ease of use and
reliability of app or website), (vii) quality, character, and availability of tasks and (viii) general likes and dislikes with
respect to their work. Source: Platform Review Information, http://faircrowd.work/platform-reviews
33 Supported by the Austrian transport and services union Vida, bicycle couriers working for the platform food
delivery service Foodora in Vienna founded a works council in April 2017.
34 Along with the standard clauses regarding wages and working time, the agreement includes an extra payment of
0.14 euros/km for workers using their own bicycles and equipment (Eurofound, Platform economy repository,
Initiatives).
30
European level, would be the proper avenue. In others, such as training, health and safety or
new employment relations, social dialogue at national level (both sectoral and firm level) seems
more adequate.
Obviously, this social dialogue will require capable and knowledgeable social partners, hence
the imperative of changing the trend of falling affiliation rates faced by trade unions in many
countries. In this regard, the Digital Revolution and its ubiquitous social media, could act as a
potential agent of change for trade unions, opening up new channels of communication with
workers that, due to the temporary nature of their employment or the digital nature of their
work, are now more isolated from fellow workers than in the past. The new participation tools
facilitated by the digital technologies could also contribute to the democratization of trade
unions and enhancing their representativeness. 35
The contingent and casual review of their activities carried out by social partners in terms of the
implications of the Digital Revolution for the world of work shows both their concerns and their
involvement in addressing many of the abovementioned challenges. Obviously, the intensity of
approaches differs across the EU Member States, as does the level of penetration of the digital
revolution in their societies. The implications of the new technologies for training and
employment levels, together with working time, data protection and health and safety issues are
present at different levels of bargaining from statements and agreements at EU level or in firm-
level or sectoral agreements. Again, for trade unions used to dealing with new technologies, in
sectors such as manufacturing or banking, this is business as usual, although in many countries,
reactive measures (what do we do now?) tend to have priority compared with preventive ones.
Making use of the informal clustering of EU Member States by union and employment density
and coverage rate proposed by Anxo in chapter 2 of this volume, it is not difficult to find
relations between issues concerning the Digital Revolution at different levels of social dialogue
in the two clusters formed by (i) countries in which union and employment density and high
coverage rates go hand in hand (mainly the Nordic countries plus Belgium) and (ii) countries
with low union density but relatively high employer density and coverage rate (Austria, France,
Germany, Spain and Italy, among others). By contrast, social dialogue around issues related to
the Digital Revolution is less common in the other two clusters (Baltic countries, Central and
Eastern countries, UK, Ireland and Greece) and Portugal and Slovenia.
We are also witnessing moves in different areas aimed at reproducing something akin to
firm/worker bargaining among groups such as own-account workers and platform workers that
so far have lacked any mechanism of workersrepresentation. It is too early to know whether
these moves will end up replicating the traditional form of works council and collective
agreement, or whether new forms of bargaining and representation will be developed.
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