International conference in Sofia discusses the challenges of the future of work


From left tp right: Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Tomislav Donchev, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister, Biser Petkov, Bulgarian Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Zornitsa Roussinova, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy of the Republic of Bulgaria. Photo: Ministry of Labour and Social Policy

Digitalisation and its impact on the labour market, the professional skills of the future, new forms of employment and a better work-life balance were among the topics discussed at the international conference “Future of work– a lifecycle approach". The event in the context of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU took place in Sofia on 21 and 22 March.

The conference participants discussed the challenges of an aging workforce, the need to create policies for early childhood development, the promotion of a longer working life, the development of digital knowledge and skills and the better protection of workers in the context of jobs transforming under the impact of advancing technologies.

We are witnessing an unprecedented industrial transformation that changes all human activities – the way we communicate, work and manage”,

said Andriana Sukova, Deputy Director-General, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission.

The scope and speed of these processes is unprecedented. We need to think about the ways to help societies and the workforce adapt”,

she added.

We need to define the relationship between productivity and the digital economy and find a social balance in non-standard forms of employment such as the four-day working week”,

said Zornitsa Roussinova, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Policy of the Republic of Bulgaria. She also pointed out the need to develop new policies and mechanisms that ensure safe and secure working conditions at the new jobs as well as adequate social protection for people who will be out of work because of the impact of digitalisation.

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev spoke about the possible outcomes of job elimination.

When we discuss the challenges of the future we should also talk about the risk of new social conflicts”, he said, giving as an example the creation of a minority of non-working people. “The first signs of the birth of a digital minority are already a reality. In the future, there will be a minority outside the network and a majority inside the network. This could become a social problem”,

he said.

Among the panellists was also EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, who said that digital transformation is a defining factor in employment nowadays.

Demand for digital skills has grown rapidly over the last decade – in the years between 2003 and 2013, ICT employment has grown between 16 and 30 per cent in 25 European countries, and this growth is expected to continue. An additional 2 million jobs have been created for IT specialists”,

Commissioner Gabriel underlined.

The conference participants confirmed the worrying demographic situation in Europe but also outlined many opportunities for improvement.

The aging population is a reality but there are many forms of active working life. And while early childhood development requires large financial investments, it also brings a substantial return on investment through highly educated young people”,

Bulgarian Minister of Labour and Social Policy Biser Petkov said during his closing remarks.

Labour digitalisation could generate inequality, technological unemployment and employment polarization, but with the help of adequate education and lifelong learning, work could also become more creative, better paid and more appealing to young people”,

the minister stated.

The EU Ministers for Employment and Social Policy will discuss the conclusions of the two-day conference during a Council meeting in June.


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