The digital revolution in view of citizens' needs and rights (own-initiative opinion) - Related Opinions
The EESC welcomes this package of new initiatives in a wide range of areas and advocates a European path to digitalisation by seizing the opportunities for the economy together with the protection of our data to ensure privacy and self-determination.
The Internet of Things (IoT), thanks to its interconnectivity of persons and objects, offers a vast range of opportunities for individuals and businesses. These opportunities must be backed by a series of safeguards and controls so as to ensure introduction of the IoT is problem-free. With this opinion the EESC aims to promote awareness-raising and digital capacity-building initiatives and calls inter alia on the European institutions and EU Member States to ensure that security and privacy are protection by building appropriate regulatory frameworks that contain strict monitoring and control provisions.
The EESC flags up the potential of AI and would like to give its input to efforts to lay the groundwork for the social transformations which will go hand in hand with the rise of AI and robotics.
The digitalised world of work will necessitate proper transition management – not only from the side of enterprises, but also from that of human capital.
On the one hand, enterprises have to identify and assess the new needs and draw up and implement plans for controlling the risks and reducing the costs of the transition; employees, on the other hand, should be provided with appropriate guidance and training, so that they can adapt to the new reality and be able to seize the opportunities offered and thrive.
Another aspect to be taken into consideration in the digitalised world of work is the use of data. Thanks to digital technologies and data, the evolution of trends is better understood and targeted support can be proposed to individuals; yet the use of these digital data should be regulated.
The opinion will build on the work already carried out by the Committee on the future of work.
The key message of the opinion is that transforming the energy system towards carbon-free, decentralised and digitalised supply offers enormous opportunities, in particular for structurally weak and rural regions in Europe. The development of renewable energy (RE) can have a major and beneficial impact on employment, and can be configured so as to provide a completely new stimulus for the regional economy. There is therefore potential for mutually reinforcing the positive effects of Europe's energy and cohesion policies. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) finds it regrettable that both the Commission and the Member States have yet to properly recognise this potential, let alone exploit it.
Social sustainability is achieved through the reaffirmation of the role and value of the European social model, which represents the identity and specificity of our continent and which guarantees high social protection and citizenship rights for all. There is a clear connection between competitiveness, productivity and social sustainability: all stakeholders must commit themselves to promoting inclusive growth and at the same time foster conditions that are favourable for the world of enterprise, with the aim of creating more and better jobs.
The introduction of digitalisation in business is having a momentous impact on the production systems, labour conditions and organisational models of the labour market and the society in general. Quality basic education, high-standard and effective training, lifelong learning, up- and re-skilling for all will be the necessary tools for grasping the job opportunities of the future and fostering enterprise competitiveness. In this context, it is important to keep a human-centred approach and to find ways to accompany vulnerable people who will not be able to respond to the growing demands of the new technological era.
Given the current and future threats to access social security faced by people in the new forms of work, the EESC recommends that the Member States and European courts regulate these new forms of employment. Member States should consider linking up the electronic systems of their health and pension insurance schemes with those of their tax administrations and making it mandatory that individuals generating professional income pay contributions. It should further be examined whether a part of the digitisation dividend could be used to ensure the sustainability of the social security systems.
Many atypical forms of work are now being developed and the associated social risks should be dealt with by means of coordinated efforts by all stakeholders. Automation and robots are having an increasing impact on work. While they have the potential to stabilise the economy in an ageing society, they are also affecting jobs: it is therefore essential that social dialogue on this point takes place at an early stage. In future, lifelong learning and professional training will be a necessity for everyone, but long-term developments can best be tackled through general education.