In our environment of unprecedented budgetary pressures and rising demand on public services, where more is increasingly demanded from less, advances in technologies have made digitalisation and automation a viable and innovative way to address the challenges facing public services today.

Many private sector enterprises that have embraced digitalisation have done so in response to the same issues public services enterprises are struggling with:

  • Hiring freezes;
  • A pile up of caseloads;
  • Frequent policy changes that need to be integrated into business practices;

In this difficult context, automation and robotics have started to appear as tremendous factors for efficiency gains. With automation, public services’ employers could realise substantial benefits. However, at the same time many public services’ jobs are forecasted to be displaced by automation by 2030.

Automation can reduce the amount of time staff spend on repetitive and routine activities, allowing more time to be spent in interaction with the public and on jobs that require a greater degree of complex problem solving or human judgement. Data improvements driven by digitalisation and automation can also improve the quality of information available for decision making. In summary, digitalisation can therefore contribute to cost reduction targets, drive productivity and quality, and allow organisations to refocus on delivering critical public services.

From the public services’ employers’ perspective, digitalization will have an effect on jobs and the way public services are produced. It will not necessarily imply a reduced number of employees or a reduced demand for skilled labour. However, it will imply an increased demand for new skills, both digital skills and soft skills such as analytical, social and entrepreneurial skills. Studies made by the OECD using PIAAC-data shows that a great part of the workforce lacks ICT skills that are demanded in the labour market today, and with an increase of technology in more sectors that have not yet used technology in the production, this will lead to a great need for upskilling and training of employees.

The digitalization of the labour market will be the main topic of the macroeconomic dialogue at political level to be held in Brussels on 5 November.

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