Digitalisation is changing the way we work in Europe. During Germany’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Policy Lab worked towards making the digital transformation social and sustainable.
Germany’s presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), which faced a particular challenge in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, came to an end on 31 December 2020. At the same time, the virus once again showed that fair wages and salaries, good working conditions, and social protection form an indispensable foundation for our society.
For this reason, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) has been working over the past six months towards making the working world of the future fairer and towards strengthening social cohesion across Europe. In this connection, “AI and the working world” and the “platform economy”, two core issues the Policy Lab is pursuing, were also explored in their international dimensions and anchored at the EU level.
Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for a good and fair working world 4.0
On 1 October 2020 the Policy Lab organised an online symposium entitled “AI in the World of Work”, in which representatives from business, research and politics participated. The experts called for steps to intensify mutual sharing of information at the European level. In particular, closer collaboration between policymakers in the fields of labour and technology at the EU level can help to encourage acceptance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) across national borders. The joint goal is to develop and apply AI responsibly, safely, and in employees’ best interests. Established in March 2020 within BMAS to observe AI trends for the German Federal Government, the AI Observatory is already working on expanding the network to include equivalent institutions across Europe. In addition, the establishment and expansion of European AI ecosystems form an important aspect of the updated national AI strategy that the Federal Cabinet adopted at the beginning of December.
A new regulatory framework for the platform economy
Valuable progress has also been made in the discussion concerning working conditions in the platform economy: BMAS held a European peer review on platform work in conjunction with the European Commission from 12 to 14 October. This reflected the fact that many activities such as delivery or household services as well as creative activities such as work involving text and programming are now being arranged via online platforms. However, these platforms frequently do not provide their workers with sufficient protection. During the peer review, government representatives, independent experts, and representatives of trade unions and online platforms discussed possible options for action at a European level. In this connection, the cross-border nature of platform work played a particular role.
The discussion was additionally intensified on 3 December 2020 during the closing meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health, and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO), which is made up of EU labour and social affairs ministers. The ministers agreed that it was important to swiftly clarify platform workers’ status under employment and social security law. The European Commission has announced a legislative proposal for platform work for 2021. In addition, the Policy Lab has already tabled a white paper on a national level, setting out the principles of a fair platform economy.
You can find further details of the main activities the European labour and social affairs ministers are pursuing under the presidency of BMAS in this summary. In addition, BMAS has published a thematic reader providing detailed analyses, viewpoints, and scientific articles on the individual topics. The articles relating to the main activities that the Policy Lab is pursuing are included in the chapter entitled “New Work – Human-centric Work”.