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How is the world of work reacting to technological change?

TASKS V—Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work

“Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work” was the title of an international conference staged by the IAB, the ZEW, and BIBB. The event examined possible implications of digitalisation of the world of work.

The main focus of an international conference organised by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), and the Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) was on shifting worlds of work. How has technological change altered the economy and society in the past? What future adjustments can we make in light of the findings that have emerged?

Academic researchers from Europe, Canada, the USA, China, and Japan came together at the Wissenschaftszentrum Bonn for the fifth TASKS Conference. Participants showcased their latest results and ideas, which then served as a basis for committed further debate. A total of 28 presentations and posters were featured in twelve different sessions. Topics ranged from impacts on task contents to the significance of mobility to the international prospects of automation. Other interesting contributions dealt with the correlation between automation and robots, policy measures, macroeconomic consequences, job losses and employment, competences and skills within a European context, substitution, and polarisation. Digitalisation at companies and the ramifications of this for employees formed a further object of discussion.

The recognised notion of the “task approach” served as a basic theoretical concept for analysis of technological developments. This was the fifth occasion on which the TASKS Conference had been held, and the success of such an “anniversary” underlines the significance of the task approach as a vehicle for analysing the future of work. BIBB, the IAB, and the ZEW will all continue to be materially involved in the further shaping and development of the task approach.

Prof. Hubert Ertl (BIBB Director of Research)

In his welcoming address, Professor Hubert Ertl, Director of Research and Deputy President of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, stressed the relevance of academic research analyses into the future of work from which recommendations for policy and practice emerge. In his capacity as a member of the Research Committee, Professor Ertl was able to confirm the high quality of submissions and the very detailed nature of the datasets.

Prof. Anna Salomons (Utrecht University)

The presentations given by invited keynote speakers were also highly conducive to academic research networking. Professor Anna Salomons from the University of Utrecht spoke about the impacts of company automation on employees with regard to matters such as income, job losses, duration of unemployment and receipt, and amount of benefit payments. In her paper, she also described differences in automation effects depending on age, company size, and gender.

Prof. Rolf van der Velden (Maastricht University)

Professor Rolf van der Velden from the University of Maastricht highlighted the skills which the labour demand will need in future and pointed out the resulting challenges that will arise for education systems. Specialist knowledge, matching with tasks exercised, and interpersonal competences are important decision-making criteria for recruiters.

Prof. Pascual Restrepo (Boston University)

Pascual Restrepo from the University of Boston contributed to understanding of the correlation between automation and labour demand by outlining the effects on task contents. He presented an innovative approach for a differentiated consideration of the technological context.

The TASKS V Conference acted as a platform for academic research networking on the future of work and provides outstanding stimuli for top level research. The analyses discussed featured different main focuses with regard to developments and effects on companies and employees and underline the relevance of cooperation between experts for the shaping of the world of work of the future.