The digital revolution is affecting the world of work in many ways. Not only is it changing the nature of certain jobs, it is also disrupting the way work is offered, accessed and contracted. The growth of digital labour platforms and the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence in recruitment and human resources processes create new challenges regarding workers’ rights, and the need for a level-playing field across diverse forms of work.

Digital labour platforms

To address concerns surrounding the labour rights and social protection of people working through digital labour platforms, the European Commission put forward in December 2021 a set of measures to improve the working conditions in platform work and to support the sustainable growth of digital labour platforms in the EU.

The World Employment Confederation-Europe broadly welcomes the objectives of the Commission’s proposal and calls for establishing a level playing field between different forms of providing services through the correct classification of online platform labour suppliers at national level and based on a set of European criteria.

When discussing and defining digital labour platforms, it is essential to look at the underlying business model and employment status of the diverse forms of organising work that are being offered through digital labour platforms. Therefore the World Employment Confederation-Europe questions whether it is appropriate to regulate the diversity of online labour platforms based on one legal basis and to use the broad terminology of platform work. In a labour market that is characterised by diverse forms of work, genuine self-employment intermediated via online labour platforms should be fully recognised and remain possible.

The World Employment Confederation-Europe agrees with the European Commission that the correct determination of the employment status is the right approach to improve the working conditions of people offering services via digital labour platforms. The presumption of an employment relationship can be a suitable way forward, if a balanced approach is taken at national level based on European guidance.

With regard to algorithmic management, the World Employment Confederation-Europe believes that any rules on online labour platforms should be fully consistent with the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act and the EU General Data Protection Regulation. Additional rules on online labour platforms in this area must be carefully assessed and justified.

The World Employment Confederation-Europe has for long been engaged on the issue of online talent platforms. In 2017-2018, WEC-Europe conducted a joint project with UNI-Europa, in the context of the social dialogue for the temporary agency work sector. Key recommendations put forward in this project focused on applying existing regulation appropriately, ensuring the correct classification of workers and the fostering of social innovation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Amongst the digital solutions that can improve labour market functioning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one that holds great potential to increase inclusiveness and efficiency.

AI allows to identify skills needs, support recruiters in matching people to jobs, improve fact-based matching, identify and predict the interoperability of skills, traits and competences, predict labour market developments, identify and prevent human-bias in recruitment procedures, identify the sustainability of employment matches, support better efficiency of roles and tasks vis-à-vis skills and competences available, support remote applications including for those that face disabilities, anticipate labour demand fluctuations, create and configure jobs and tasks that align with the supply of workers (and their work preferences, competence and skills), support human resource management, support risk management and advise on the configuration and creation of efficient and diverse teams and workforces.

Trustworthiness and proper controls on the collection, storage and use of data are in place are prerequisite for the further uptake of digital technology. In its response to the European Commission’s public consultation on its White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, the World Employment Confederation-Europe insists on the need for a balanced regulatory framework to address concerns related to the use of AI in HR services. The private employment services sector also makes proposals to increase trust in the deployment of the technology to the benefit of labour markets inclusiveness and efficiency.

In February 2021, WEC-Europe reached out the European Commission and the European Parliament to express its concerns regarding some developments surrounding the legislative ambitions on AI in the EU: firstly, the intention to classify all workers’ rights and recruitment related AI as ‘high risk’, as well as employment and recruitment as respectively ‘high risk’ sector and ‘high risk’ use or purpose and secondly, the proposal for a third-party certification by new national public authority. For more details, read the letter addressed to the European institutions.

In 2023, the OECD released a paper that explores the potential benefits, as well as pitfalls, of using AI in labour market matching. The World Employment Confederation-Europe and its members have informed this research through interviews and a roundtable discussion about how AI is used in private employment services.

To ensure the ethical deployment of AI, the World Employment Confederation adopted a set of ethical principles for its members to abide with when using the technology in recruitment and employment processes. At the core lies the need to keep the human element centric.

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