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Digitalisation in Public Employment Services

  • Status: completed
  • Duration: 2018
  • Client: European Commission / DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

Project summary

Digitalisation is expected to change the world of work drastically. Robotisation and automation are likely to replace jobs, change jobs and create new types of jobs. But what is the expected impact? And what should governments do to prepare for the future?

In February 2018, representatives from several EU member states met in Prague, Czech republic, to discuss how governments should respond to changing labour markets. We wrote a thematic paper about the topic to guide the discussion during the seminar.


Most experts agree that we live in an era of farstretching technological change. Dubbed by some the “fourth industrial revolution” or the “second digital age”. There seem to be some consensus that:

  1. the speed of technological change is increasing,
  2. technological changes are interacting profoundly with societies, and
  3. it seems certain that big (societal) changes are underway.

General policy implication is that policy makers (and governments in general) need to closely monitor technological developments and anticipate its consequences.

But what is the impact of these changes on the world of work? While not many publications explore the broader societal impacts of the current wave of technological developments, a significant body of work focuses on the impact of technology on the economy and labour markets. While some take a critical stance and assert that the actual impact of technology is yet to be seem, the majority of views suggest that the impact of the new wave of technologies is expected to be so profound and impacting so many policy areas that positive impacts in one area could easily be offset by negative impacts in other areas.

Regarding the impact of automation on work, most publications focus on one (or a combination) of three scenarios:

  • Loss of jobs through automation and replacement of workers by robots,
  • A shift in working arrangements where workers work less and/or more flexibly,
  • The creation of more jobs and/or new types of jobs due to automation.

What is the implication of these developments for governments and their labour market policies? 

The project

To help member states prepare for the future, the European Commission organised a seminar on “Work 4.0, digitalisation of the labour market” (28 February 2018, Prague). And asked for our expertise on the subject.

Our role

Our role was twofold:

  1. We wrote an input paper for the seminar. Goal of the paper was to provide an overview of the current state-of-the-art in research, theory and practice with regards to a) the expected (near) future impact of technology on labour markets and employment, b) impacts beyond work that are important for policy makers and c) current policies as planned or deployed by governments or recommended by experts to prepare for the future.
  2. We attended the seminar to present our findings and provide our expert opinions on the subject.