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World of work: putting AI at the service of the human and not the opposite

“The world of work will be increasingly exposed to the spread of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, with the particular risk that AI replaces humans in more jobs than it creates new ones,” said the Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development Committee, meeting today by videoconference.

Stressing the potential impact of AI on workers' opportunities to access the labour market, the parliamentarians pointed to the risk that AI “disrupts the labour market, fragments professional lives and exacerbates socio-economic inequalities”. Furthermore, the committee expressed concern that AI is being deployed on a wide scale without keeping users adequately informed and without giving them the choice to seek remedies when decisions affecting them as workers involve algorithmic decision-making.

By adopting the report by Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC) on this issue, the committee called on member States to develop national strategies for responsible AI use, covering in particular “challenges for labour markets, labour rights and skills development”.

According to the committee, the State should participate in and control algorithm development to ensure that AI developers fully comply with legal norms in the context of employment, in order to avoid regulatory capture by influential AI businesses.

The adopted text also recommends reflecting on the need for “social innovation” to accompany the spread of AI technologies in labour markets by studying options for securing a permanently guaranteed basic income “as part of a new social contract between citizens and the State", and “’social’ taxation options such as a ‘robot tax’ and carbon taxes”, in order to alleviate the negative impact of automation on human workers.

The parliamentarians proposed to introduce “AI education” through digital education programmes for young people and lifelong learning paths for all.

Finally, the committee recommended that the Committee of Ministers prepare a comprehensive European legal instrument on AI which would also cover the need for enhanced protection of work-related social rights.