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The people at the centre of the digital transformation

Met dank overgenomen van Portugees voorzitterschap Europese Unie 1e helft 2021, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 9 maart 2021.
een jonge vrouw ligt met haar benen op een gele bank met haar laptop

The changes in the labour market in recent years, as well as reconciling professional and personal life and the right to disconnect, were some of the topics on the programme for the High-Level Conference on the Future of Work, held at the Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, today.

The conference, organised under the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, addressed the theme of “Remote Working: Challenges, Risk and Opportunities” and was attended by the Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho, and by the Portuguese Deputy Minister of Labour and Vocational Training, Miguel Cabrita.


In his welcome message, Prime Minister António Costa recalled that the digital transition and climate action are two engines of economic recovery and that the Recovery and Resilience Plans have to devote 20% of their investments to them.

He also said that the development of the European Pillar of Social Rights is a fundamental instrument for ensuring that nobody gets left behind in this twin transition.


He therefore welcomed the presentation by the European Commission of the Action Plan for the Social Pillar, with quantified targets for the employment rate, training and the fight against poverty, saying that this will be the theme of the Social Summit in Porto, to be held by the Portuguese Presidency in May, bringing together institutions, social partners, civil society and the Member States.


The increase in digital platforms

Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), also welcomed the EC initiative, as well as the targets set for 2030, encouraging partners to find measures that guarantee fair teleworking conditions and that all workers can, in fact, have the right to disconnect.

Recalling that teleworking has existed in different forms for decades, Guy Ryder explained that what is new is its growth and the so-called Gig Economy. Ryder also referred to the Practical Guide on Teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond”, (Practical Guide on Teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond), recently presented by the ILO. And he revealed that in the last ten years, the number of digital platforms has increased fivefold all over the world, so this growth did not come only during the pandemic.


However, Guy Ryder pointed out that what needs to be done as we come out of the pandemic is to place people at the centre of the economy. The ILO believes that to do this, the correct policies must be created, as well as regulations that will safeguard the fundamental rights of all workers, irrespective of their employment status.


Teleworking with appropriate conditions

The European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights also took part in this conference, virtually, and he said that vaccination and the return to “normal” life will not put an end to teleworking, and that work methods will change in the future. Meanwhile, Nicolas Schmit warned of the importance of the new ways of working not becoming synonymous with job insecurity. “Decent working conditions cannot be exchanged for flexibility. It is not an exchange; they should be side by side”, he said.

As such, he believes clear rules must be stipulated, with teleworking benefiting from the same social rights as working in the office, as appropriate working conditions need to be assured, irrespective of the organisational models.


The Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho, believes that the presentation of the European Pillar of Social Rights was “a decisive step for going from principles to action”. The changes in the world of work, more intensely felt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have brought with them the need for “a broad discussion” on this topic.

Ana Mendes Godinho argued that the “green and digital transformation has enormous potential and brings with it opportunities, much like the ways of working associated with it, but it also brings challenges and risks”. Because of how central it is to people's lives, work “cannot be left off an agenda for innovation, recovery and resilience”.

Promoting the importance of employment, decent work, an increase in social rights, the right to privacy and clear boundaries between work and rest times are factors that make public policies “imperative”.

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