The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), an independent advisory body to the Commission, has today published an Opinion on the changes sweeping through the world of work, and the ethical implications for individuals and societies.
The report examines the trends shaping the new landscape of work: from the impact of Artificial Intelligence on jobs, and new ways of working in the gig economy, to the use of smart tools and data to recruit and track workers. It was presented today to Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Labour Mobility.
Commissioner Moedas said:
A new world of work is becoming reality and we have to take the reins and steer this evolution towards the societies we want to live and work in. This Opinion is a call to action and a reminder that technological innovation must be accompanied by both social and public sector innovation.
Commissioner Thyssen added:
The EU prides itself on its high standards of labour and social protection. The advent of new technologies must strengthen, rather than undermine European values of justice and solidarity. This Opinion will feed into thinking on the future of work.
The report finds that digital technologies create value and bring efficiency gains. However, evidence indicates a considerable accumulation of wealth by a small section of society as others face increasing hardship and a widening inequality gap. It warns that new forms of work bring unparalleled flexibility but also precarity. They also expose the limitations of existing social models to guarantee decent livelihoods for many Europeans.
The EGE emphasises that technologies alone are not the root cause of current challenges and points to the policies and institutions that shape working conditions. In the face of rapid change, the EGE calls for a shift of the current focus: rather than placing the overwhelming responsibility on individual upskilling, the EU should embark on a societal upskilling. This would involve placing renewed consideration on the institutions and economic, political, and social frameworks that shape the welfare of people and societies. Notably, in its recommendations the EGE calls upon the Commission and Member States to consider how social security benefits can be provided outside formal employment arrangements and calls upon Member States to implement fiscal policies that simultaneously foster growth and reduce income inequality, ensuring a fair distribution of the wealth created as a result of technology and automation.
The EGE is an independent, multi-disciplinary body appointed by the President of the European Commission and operating under the direct responsibility of Commissioner Moedas. The EGE advises on all aspects of Commission policies and legislation where ethical, societal and fundamental rights dimensions intersect with the development of science and new technologies.
The Group brings together 15 leading thinkers from Europe and worldwide, from the fields of natural and social sciences and humanities, philosophy, ethics and law. Members range from scientists who have spearheaded cutting-edge biomedical techniques, to leading scholars in the study of information technologies, philosophy of science and human rights law.
This is the 30th Opinion of the EGE and follows a formal request by the European Commission to examine the issues surrounding the future of work and its societal, political and technological effects. The Opinion builds on the EGE’s statement on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and ‘Autonomous Systems’ published in March 2018 which has become a cornerstone of the European Commission’s Strategy on Artificial Intelligence.