Automation and digitisation

Technology and the labour market

Impact of technological changes on Scottish jobs.

A new publication sets out how digitisation, automation and other innovations will affect the Scottish labour market.

The joint report from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Trades Union Congress follows from the First Minister’s recent biannual meetings with the STUC, where discussions addressed the growing anxiety among some workers that their jobs may either be lost or changed due to new technologies.

It discusses competing claims about the future of work and assesses the extent that technology is already affecting the labour market, and identifies areas for further consideration.

Speaking before she addressed STUC Congress First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“This report highlights the continuing positive and constructive relationship the Scottish Government enjoys with trade unions - in stark contrast to the confrontational approach of the UK Government.

“We share a common objective with the STUC - to ensure automation and digitisation have positive outcomes for all of Scotland’s people.

“Scottish workers are already benefitting from quality job opportunities in sectors such as game development and data analytics where we are at the forefront of technological change.

“The report recognises and addresses the genuine fears many workers have over ways in which technology might affect their working lives and future job prospects, and highlights where Scottish Government approaches to skills development and fair work can help meet the challenges of technological change.”   

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary said: 

“Automation represents a major challenge to how work is organised, but it is still unclear how it will affect the quality and type of work in the long term. Predictions swing between utopian visions of emancipation through technology, to dystopian views of severe inequality.

“The STUC and Scottish Government report cuts through this debate to recognise both the positive and negative impacts of automation. It found examples where new technologies lead to job losses, such as the closure of bank branches due to increased internet banking; and examples where it can improve safety and security, like the digitised records in the health service.

“In all cases, workers must be involved in how automation is introduced, shaping or controlling their own workplaces through collective trade union involvement. Otherwise we are likely to see automation pursued as a cost-cutting, profit-driven measure, implemented without proper training or controls, or used to abuse staff with inappropriate targets or high levels of surveillance. These are the sorts of consequences we will be debating at Congress, which the union movement is working to avoid.”

Further reading - Technological Change and the Scottish Labour Market : download the PDF

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