EU Science Hub

How is technological revolution changing the world of work and skills in the EU?

New JRC report looks into how technological revolution is changing the world of work and skills in the EU
New JRC report looks into how technological revolution is changing the world of work and skills in the EU
Sep 24 2019

Virtual assistant, Influencer, SEO Specialist, App Developer, Uber Driver, Driverless Car Engineer, Podcast Producer, Drone Operator. These are just some of the jobs that did not exist 10 years ago.

What will come in the future? What will today's 10-year-olds do when they are 25? What kind of jobs will disappear, what will be created and why?

Which new skills will be valuable in the job market? What new forms of work are emerging?

On 24 September 2019, in Brussels, the JRC launched a new report, “The changing nature of work and skills in the digital age”.

The report offers an evidence based analysis of the impact of technology on labour markets and the need to adapt education policies to boost digital skills.

It finds that while new technologies will reshape millions of jobs in the EU, digital and transversal skills are increasingly necessary to seize emerging job opportunities.

Particularly, the report provides new research and data on:

  • The interplay between new technologies, jobs, and work organisation;
  • The extent and nature of work mediated by digital labour platforms, and
  • Ongoing structural changes in the EU labour market.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: "Work and skills requirements are evolving rapidly as a result of technological progress, creating pressing policy challenges for the EU. Robust evidence is the first step to design future-proof policies that ensure everyone can use new technologies in a confident, creative and safe way. Today’s report contributes to informing important initiatives I have launched over the past five years such as the Digital Education Action Plan and the European Education Area."

Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility added: “This new report by @EU_sciencehub shows how technology changes labour markets by creating new forms of work. Intel on how this will affect workers is crucial to make sure that workers are equipped with the right skills on the one hand, and continue to be protected on the other. During my mandate I have worked hard to promote skills development, to guarantee access to social protection for all and to make sure all workers get predictable and transparent working conditions. We need to continue building on these achievements to ensure our labour and social policies are fit for purpose in the 21st century labour market."

The key findings from the report are:

New technologies will reshape millions of jobs in the EU

Digital technologies dot not simply create and destroy jobs: they also change what people do on the job, and how they do it.

Job profiles could change substantially through the addition of new tasks or modification of existing ones, requiring workers to adapt to new working methods, work organisation and tools.

Millions of EU jobs will be affected by automation, especially those that require relatively low levels of formal education, those that do not involve relatively complex social interaction and those that involve routine manual tasks.

Technology also creates new types of jobs.

The kinds of jobs that are predicted to grow the most in the EU by 2030 appear to be those that require higher education, intensive use of social and interpretative skills, and at least a basic knowledge of ICT.

Digital and non-cognitive skills are increasingly necessary to seize emerging job opportunities

Jobs requiring a combination of digital and non-cognitive skills (such as communication, planning, teamwork) will likely be in higher demand in the future.

These jobs are in fact already growing in number in the EU, while often offering better-paid career opportunities than others.

Yet, the digital skills gap remains wide, and at risk of expanding in many EU countries.

Close to 40% of the EU labour force has no or almost no digital skills, while the number of ICT graduates remains below the needs in many EU Member States.

Meanwhile, teaching of non-cognitive skills seems to be neglected across the EU despite its apparent growing relevance in today's and tomorrow's labour markets.

In a fast-evolving world, equally important becomes the need of rethinking, not only the type of skills to be developed, but also the way these skills are provided by education and training institutions.

Technology is a key driver of new forms of work in the EU

New forms employment such as casual work, ICT-based mobile work, and digitally-enabled forms of self-employment are gaining traction in the EU.

This is partly because technology provides incentives for employers to contract out work, and it enables workers to work remotely and in novel structures.

New JRC data for 2018 shows that platform work remains small but significant in the EU, involving many young people and highly educated workers.

Around 11% of the working age population (aged 16-74) has provided services via online platforms at least once – up from 9.5% in 2017.

However providing labour services mediated by platforms is the main work activity for only 1.4% of the working age population.

The employment landscape is evolving differently across the EU, with the divide between and within EU Member States remaining large

New research conducted jointly by the JRC and Eurofound shows that the patterns of employment restructuring varied considerably between EU regions in the period 2002-2017.

Around one third of the 130 regions analysed have experienced heightened job polarisation.

And while some, mostly rural, regions have seen a remarkable occupational upgrading, with their employment structure increasingly resembling the EU average one, many other regions are still lagging behind.

For instance, the share of low-paid jobs in some peripheral regions remains around twice as large as in core EU regions

The report also shows that highly urbanised regions, and those with higher innovation capacity, are more likely to have larger shares of high-paid jobs, and smaller fractions of low-paid ones than others.

High-paid jobs tend to concentrate particularly in capital city regions, although with important differences across EU Member States.

The European Commission is already working to address some of these challenges

Ongoing trends raise questions regarding the design of all levels of education, the provision and access to training and lifelong learning, the regulation of labour markets, the future of tax and benefits systems, and the protection of social rights.

On 10 April the Commission's high level group on The impact of digital transformation on EU labour markets handed over its report to Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, unveiling its list of recommendations.

The EU is responding to the challenge by putting Europe's social dimension at the top of the agenda.

In November 2017, the European Parliament, the Member States and the European Commission proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, with 20 principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems in the 21st century. Work is ongoing to ensure its implementation at EU and Member State level.

The EU rolls out concrete initiatives that help people to face this new world of work with confidence and added security, including the Skills Agenda for Europe, new EU rules on transparent and predictable working conditions, a Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers, a European Accessibility Act, the creation of a European Labour Authority, and a Council Recommendation on access to social protection.

In October, the 4th European Vocational Skills Week will take place in Helsinki, to promote the benefits of vocational education and learning for future careers.

As part of the future long-term EU budget (2021-2027), the European Commission has proposed the Digital Europe programme.

The ambitious yet realistic goal is to use €9.2 billion to align the next long-term EU budget with arising digital challenges.

The proposal focuses on reinforcing Europe's capacities in high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

The Commission proposes that several instruments will contribute to address the digital skills gap that Europe is facing.

These tools will help to support the development of both basic and advanced digital skills.

On 9 April 2019, the Commission President hosted a High-level Conference on "The Future of Work: Today. Tomorrow. For All" to openly discuss the main changes taking place in the world of work.