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EU Social Forum 2023 looking into AI and the World of Work


On 16 and 17 November 2023, EARLALL participated in the second edition of the European Employment & Social Rights Forum, organised by the DG for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion of the European Commission in Brussels. 

The EU Social Forum 2023 looked into the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the world of work. EARLALL Secretariat and TKNIKA (Basque Country, Spain) participated together with policymakers, national, local, and regional authorities, representatives from businesses, social partners, civil society and academics to assess the current challenges and opportunities brought about by artificial intelligence in the world of work. Through the two-day interventions, the EU Social Forum makes it clear that AI won’t destroy jobs but will transform them and create new ones, and that the human-centric approach will be extremely needed together with soft skills.  

Joost Korte, European Commission Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion, opened the Forum by highlighting that Europe needs to find the right balance to encourage innovation and protect workers’ rights. For this, the European Pillar of Social Rights remains our compass. The Nobel Prize winner, Prof. Christopher Pissarides then stated that soft skills will remain in demand. 

The Forum continued the discussion with four thematic sessions on youth entrepreneurship, policy and regulation of AI, skills in the age of AI and the digitalisation and the future of work. Nicolas Schmit, EU Social Affairs Commissioner, underlined that a human-centric approach would be crucial in the future of work and that humans would remain in control of the decisions instead of algorithms. 

Thierry Breton, Internal Market Commissioner welcomed the Forum participants on the second day. He stressed the importance of accompanying younger people in the change of the world of work as there is some mistrust of the working conditions. 

On the second day, the programme included two sessions on algorithmic management and the European Pillar of Social Rights. Six years later, the Pillar has launched more than 130 initiatives. Social protection remains at the top of the European Agenda, especially when the working conditions and the world of work are changing so fast. 

Participants had the opportunity to participate in four parallel sessions on social innovation and AI, the role of data, and digital skills in the European Year of Skills. Iñigo Araiztegui (Director of Internationalisation at Tknika, Basque Government) was invited to participate in this last session. Mr Araiztegui introduced the EU-funded project LCAMP: Learner-Centric Advanced Manufacturing Platform for CoVEs, which counts 20 partners, including EARLALL. LCAMP aims to become the European reference platform for knowledge generation, exchange, collaboration, and service provision for VET/HVET centres and companies within the Advanced Manufacturing sector and is part of the European Commission Centers of Vocational Excellence initiative. Mr Araiztegui underlined two main conclusions of the work of LCAMP so far: few companies are automated, especially not SMEs and digital technologies are changing work. He added that a holistic approach to digital skills is needed, “we can’t deal with the demands of digital skills in isolation as we also need to provide technical skills and soft skills”. He explained that in the Basque Country, they have an open dialogue with different stakeholders in the Basque ecosystems skills to understand what is needed and provide training accordingly. 

Andriana Sukova, European Commission Deputy Director-General of the EU Social Affairs Directorate, closed the EU Social Forum 2023 by saying that she is optimistic about the transformative power of AI if used responsibly. She added that the insights and proposed solutions gathered from these past two days will shape our progressive EU strategies and policies.

Next week, the discussion on these topics will continue at the International VET Summit “Advancing Towards the Unimaginable” which organises the Basque Country Government in San Sebastian (Spain).