Researchers and representatives of social partners from Europe, Asia, and North America gathered at the eighth edition of the UNTANGLED Open Virtual Expert Café to discuss topics including labour and skill shortages, the impact of automation and digitalisation on inequality and work organisation, and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic for inequality.
The 9 November meet-up, organised by ZSI, featured five presentations, and attracted 16 participants.
Wojciech Szymczak (IBS) presented a recent UNTANGLED policy brief showing ways to foster lifelong learning in markets where demand for skills is changing rapidly due to technological advances. As automation makes some skills obsolete, the demand for people who can perform non-routine tasks is increasing. Moreover, while technology-driven changes are increasing the demand for digital skills, specific social skills have also gained importance. Szymczak argued that policymakers must implement policies that support lifelong learning and tailor-made reskilling programmes, and adopt new attitudes toward adult education to address the skills mismatch.
LISER’s Ludivine Martin presented key insights from a paper co-authored with Laetitia Hauret, shedding light on how employers in Luxembourg address shortages of workers without university degree. In 2022, 76% of Luxembourg companies with over five employees struggled to fill positions requiring lower educational attainment than a tertiary degree. To address this challenge, they implemented three strategies: recruiting outside Luxembourg (54%), hiring and training individuals not perfectly fit for the job (49%), and increasing salaries (27%). Data from the 2021 European Working Conditions Survey showed that among craft and trades workers, workers in job roles facing facing labour shortages on average encountered significantly poorer working conditions than those in similar positions not affected by shortages. Martin concluded that improving working conditions might be another strategy to mitigate hiring challenges in manufacturing.
Karina Doorley (ESRI) presented a recent UNTANGLED paper, which analyses the impact of automation on household income inequality in Europe. The paper, written jointly with Piotr Lewandowski, Jan Gromadzki, Dora Tuda, and Philippe Van Kerm, shows that robot adoption has increased wage inequality due to job polarization. However, welfare systems in Europe so far mitigate the negative effects that robot adoption has on wages and employment and cushion households’ market income losses.
Istanbul University’s İlayda Emine Nilüfer explored the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on inequality, examining areas such as health, education, and the welfare state. Nilüfer found that the pandemic deepened inequality, and inequality increased the severity of the pandemic as well. Her findings suggested that digital inequality was a crucial factor influencing educational outcomes during Covid-19.
Philip Schörpf (FORBA, Vienna) talked about his ongoing research with Myriam Gaitsch that looks into how adoption of new technologies in the workplace and new forms of collaboration intensify work and exacerbate stress. They combine digital self-tracking of participants’ biometric data in the study with diaries and interviews in the beginning and at the end of the working week, and discuss results in focus groups or health circles. Schörpf and Gaitsch found that as teamwork becomes digitalised, employees increasingly self-structure and manage parts of the labour process. What is more, they observed that digitalisation impacts women and men differently. Women in team settings were more often responsible for emotional tasks necessary to deal with organisational shortcomings; they were also more often available outside their working hours.
The slides from the event, with further links to the projects and outputs discussed, are available here.