Improving working conditions using artificial intelligence

Two engineers using CAD programming software on laptop, photo by Monkey Business Images/Adobe Stock

Monkey Business/Adobe Stock

Increasing investment in technology and computer literacy, and updating existing labour market and employment rules and regulations, could enable AI to reduce human exposure to harmful and hazardous workplace conditions and create more quality and decent jobs.

What is the issue?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an increasingly common feature of modern working life. The EU has taken a variety of actions in order to support adoption of AI and the consequent changes in the world of work, including establishing a special committee on artificial intelligence in a digital age (AIDA).

AI comes with its own risks and opportunities for the EU, bringing both the possibility of improving working conditions and various associated challenges for working populations. Research is needed therefore to understand its potential benefits and challenges to jobs, job markets and working conditions.

How did we help?

RAND Europe was commissioned by the European Parliament to examine the use of AI as an opportunity

  1. to reduce human exposure to harmful and hazardous conditions and
  2. to create more quality and decent jobs.

The study uses the findings of a targeted literature review and semi-structured interviews to examine the current research landscape. The team were able to outline a number of policy options for the European Parliament and member states to consider.

What did we find?

  • The expected impact of AI on jobs in the EU: There are multiple and differing forecasts and predictions regarding the impact of AI on job losses and job creation. Current evidence on the impact of AI on jobs presents a mixed picture of job losses and gains. Across the wide range of forecasts, high-income countries are expected to be better positioned to adapt to the requirements of AI-led automation.
  • The potential of AI to create decent jobs: AI brings both risks and opportunities in terms of creating and maintaining decent jobs, but will depend on the broader societal, commercial, and industrial frameworks and drivers in place.
  • Opportunities and risks associated with AI in a working environment: Using AI in the workplace has the potential to reduce physical risks, and encourage skills development. However, it was also associated with risks to well-defined, highly routinised jobs in specific sectors. The role of regulation and policymaking is important in determining the extent of impact that AI may have on working conditions.
  • Policies and practices in EU member states regarding AI and working conditions: Recent EU strategies on artificial intelligence were considered important in setting future policy. Few Member States have policies or strategies that explicitly consider AI in relation to labour markets or working conditions.

What do we recommend?

Areas where the EU might take new or additional actions include:

  • Increasing investment in technology and computer literacy as part of educational and training offers (including continuing education) to create a more socially and economically resilient workforce.
  • Addressing evidence and knowledge gaps highlighted in this report by conducting more granular and empirical research capturing the impact of AI in the workplace and on job quality across Member States, industry sectors, occupations and demographic groups.
  • Updating the existing rules and regulations that govern different stages of employment and labour market lifecycles to address the emerging role that AI plays in hiring, promoting and firing decisions.
  • Adapting the current provisions of GDPR regarding automatic processing of data to consider the risks posed by AI to working conditions and mitigating high risk AI activities.