Digital programme: Algorithms at the workplace

FEPS, together with Nordic partners, launched a Digital Programme on algorithmic management and workers' rights

13/03/2023

With the computer revolution, the workplace has rapidly introduced digital technologies for gig work, remote work, surveillance, and algorithmic management of workers.   

FEPS, together with Tankesmedjan Tiden, Kalevi Sorsa Saatio, Tankesmien Agenda, CEVEA, Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd (ECLM), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Nordics, Cooperation Committee of the Nordic Labour Movement (SAMAK), and with the support of Nordics Trade Unions, came together for a Digital Research Programme to investigate these developments and their effects.

Over the next two years, they will work together on three different research strands. One on company case studies of algorithmic management, where workers’ performance is tracked and rated. Another on workers’ experience in algorithmic management from surveys and focus groups. And a third on online platforms, employment terms and algorithms.   

Some of the consequences of this digital transition have become clear. For instance, digital technology has facilitated a split in the labour market, with jobs increasingly ‘lousy or lovely’. This has been especially visible in the ‘gig’ or platform economy, where digital technology has enabled firms to rely on an increasingly flexible labour pool. This has led to a large-scale evasion of existing labour and social protections by classifying de facto workers as ‘entrepreneurs’. This is now being addressed, to some degree, by courts across Europe and by new laws in Member States like Spain and at the EU level.  

But contrary to employment status and precariousness, what is less obvious are the effects of digital tech on the nature of work itself across the labour market. It has already been shown that ubiquitous surveillance causes stress and anxiety among workers and decreases trust in the workplace. There are also emerging signs that the use of algorithmic decision-making systems is accompanied by profound shifts in workplace management, the exercise of power, and workers’ rights. This is especially visible in the platform economy but is spread widely across the economy, including in more ‘traditional’ sectors.  

And the tendency to use such systems has further accelerated since the onset of the Covid pandemic. Work is crucial to millions of Europeans’ well-being and a pillar of the Nordic Model.  

We will discuss the research’s challenges and findings on several occasions. If you are interested in joining the conversations or would like to know more about the research, please contact Gerard Rinse Oosterwijk, FEPS Digital Policy Analyst at gerard.oosterwijk@feps-europe.eu and Luis Saez Jimenez, FEPS Project Officer at luis.saez@feps-europe.eu

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Economic Council of the Labour Movement (ECLM)
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