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Securing workers’ rights in the AI revolution

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The second edition of the flagship European Employment & Social Rights Forum took place on 16-17 November, in Brussels and online. The event brought together over 2200 participants and a diverse panel of 74 speakers to discuss the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the world of work.

The 2023 European Employment and Social Rights Forum aimed to explore how the potential of AI can be harnessed to deliver a world in which nobody is left behind, and where technological advancements do not compromise workers’ rights.

The Forum discussed the role of new legislation such as the proposed Directive on platform work and the AI Act in driving innovation while protecting workers from any negative aspects of technology.

Over 70 speakers brought their insights to the Forum, including EU and national policymakers, business leaders, social partners, civil society, and academia.

Some of the highlights included interventions by:

  • Christopher Pissarides, Professor of economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, co-founder and co-chair of the Institute for the Future of Work, and winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics
  • Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
  • Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market
  • Dragoș Pîslaru, Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs at the European Parliament

Missed the European Employment & Social Rights Forum 2023? Catch up on the discussions: watch the wrap-up video and the recordings of the conference. You can also find photos of the event on the Social Europe Flickr account.

The role of legislation in protecting European values

Workers must profit from breakthroughs such as ChatGPT, said Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights. An important challenge for policymakers is therefore to “establish a system where the benefits of AI are distributed fairly”.

“Setting clear rules doesn’t slow down innovation. On the contrary, it provides guidelines for investment”, underlined Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market. “Our goal is to ensure that our values are preserved and included in this AI revolution.” 

Ensuring strong social protection for workers

Speakers agreed that it is important not to fight technological advances, but to set clear rules and help workers adapt to change.

Nobel laureate in Economics Professor Christopher Pissarides argued that countries with strong social support for workers “can use AI beneficially to create good jobs and better lives”.  Countries such as “the US and China are way ahead in terms of preparedness for AI, but they dismally fail on social support. So, I would not say they create good jobs.”

“AI means changes, but not necessarily bad changes,” said Joost Korte, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission. The crucial need is to “prevent abusive practices” and ensure that “the human remains in control”.

Shaping progressive strategies and policies

In her closing remarks, Andriana Sukova, Deputy Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission, offered reassurance that AI will change jobs, not eliminate them.

“We must keep people at the heart of AI, backed by strong social support systems. I am optimistic about the transformative power of AI if used responsibly. This Forum’s insights and proposed solutions will help shape progressive strategies and policies.”

Wrap up video of the Forum

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