The Economic and Social Council (ESC) of Bulgaria adopted an opinion on "Challenges Facing Labour in the Context of the Digitization of the Economy". This is yet another ESC position related to the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the development of society. As in previous positions, ESC stresses that, if appropriate and proper policies are implemented, technological developments will lead to positive results and a number of risks will be avoided.
In its conclusions, ESC warns that, at the international level, differences in the level of development of countries in terms of new technologies can lead to new inequalities and delay the processes of a real EU-wide convergence. Therefore, ESC recommends the gradual and sustainable creation of high-paying jobs that create high added value, as Bulgarian workers lose competitiveness due to slow and inefficient decisions with regard to technological transformation. ESC also warns that the link between labour productivity and wages may be lost in the long run.
The opinion takes the view that significant changes to the rules are needed to establish transparent and democratic conditions for interaction between people and digital technologies, by reviewing parts of European labour law related to non-standard forms of employment, social security, taxation and the like.
Once again ESC insists on the preparation of a national strategy for Bulgaria's transition to Industry 4.0 and noted that there has been no progress in this regard after 2017, when only a concept was adopted. According to ESC, the concept should be first updated after a thorough analysis of its impact on the labour market and the process of adopting the strategy should be speeded up.
The opinion addresses various aspects of the impact of technological advancement on the labour market, such as the lifelong learning process, investment in research and development, statistical monitoring of qualitative and quantitative changes in occupations, etc.
ESC notes that in the coming decades, new technologies will replace low-skilled workforce and play a complementary role in high-skilled jobs. In this context, it is necessary to take measures for adequate training and qualification, for improving skills, etc.
ESC points out the main possible consequences for labour from the advent of non-standard forms of labour, made possible by technological advances. First is the loss or transformation of jobs that require low or medium skill levels and the creation of new jobs with higher requirements for competency. The risk is presented as the widening of the gap between the skills sought by the business and the acquired skills and knowledge through higher education, the ageing of the population, the slow introduction of new technologies in the production process. Extending inequalities of different types can be a serious consequence of the transformation to digitalization, the document warns.
ESC's opinion is also valuable in the selection of good practices from other countries that address technology-related challenges to labour. Various national strategies and policies are outlined, as well as specific changes in the labour laws of different countries.
ESC also recalls the fact that, according to the World Bank, Bulgaria ranks 58th out of 115 countries in the annual ranking for business digitization, and that Bulgaria lags behind the average European levels and ranks last among the 28 Member States. ESC recommends the Bulgarian government, social partners, business and all interested parties to focus their attention on the digitization processes and reach a consensus to accelerate these processes without underestimating the risks of labour.