South African Cultural Observatory

World Leaders asked to protect workers in the face of artificial intelligence and automation

BY 24.01.19

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a specialized agency of the UN that sets labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men, has made a call on world leaders to protect workers and jobs in the face of artificial intelligence and automation.

The call was made in a report that was released at the annual Davos meeting, the World Economic Forum, where heads of government and business leaders gather annually to discuss the world economy.

The report seeks to address rapid changes in the workplace triggered by the rise of the robot economy (artificial intelligence-driven economy) and technological automation. The report proposes a package of measures required to put the world economy on a sustainable footing for the future.

Suggested measures include:

  • a universal labour guarantee that would enshrine the right to an adequate living wage, maximum limits on working hours, and health and safety protections. It would also enforce freedom of association in trade unions and the right to collective bargaining, freedom from forced labour, child labour and discrimination.
  • Strengthening social protection systems around the world.
  • Improved policies to support reductions in gender inequality, from parental leave to greater investment in public care services. Women are paid about a fifth less than men around the world.
  • The creation of a universal entitlement to lifelong learning, to enable workers to gain vital skills and retrain later in life; and an international governance system that would require gig economy platforms, such as Uber and Deliveroo, to respect certain minimum rights and protections for workers.

The ILO report was co-chaired by the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, and is the culmination of a 15-month review by a 27-member commission of senior figures from the world of business, academia, trade unions and charities.

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In early June the SA Cultural Observatory was co-host of the Creative Intermediaries Forum that was hosted in District Six, Cape Town.

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