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Research Project: Digital Transformation

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More flexible working hours, work locations, working methods - for some, this has quickly become part of everyday life with the onset of the Corona pandemic. These developments have many advantages but also harbor some risks: In a new research project, ECDF professor Stefan Kirchner (TU Berlin) is looking at the impact of digital transformation on employment risks and work quality. 

The digital transformation increasingly links physical and virtual worlds and establishes new communication channels that make new work models possible. Retirees and mothers and parents, for example, are benefiting from new ways to work since these new jobs are more likely to be able to adapt to their time and family needs, whereas the usual forms of employment only allow this to a fairly limited extent. "Of course, these opportunities go hand in hand with the risk that the boundaries between work and leisure time will become increasingly blurred and result in a heavier workload," explains Stefan Kirchner, head of the project. 

It is already being discussed more frequently that the digital transformation will lead to some activities being performed automatically by artificial intelligence in the future - by machines instead of people. This will change the demand for certain professions and will force some people to have to look for other areas of activity. "Our interdisciplinary project will provide - on the theoretical and methodological basis of economics and sociology - new evidence on digital jobs, platform work and artificial intelligence, thus creating a sound basis for decision-makers to make evidence-based policy decisions in labor and social policy," says the sociologist. The project aims to uncover negative effects so that policymakers can take countermeasures here, while at the same time ensuring that as many population groups as possible benefit from technological progress. 

Overall, it is so far only possible to roughly assess the extent to which digitization is already determining everyday working life and which population groups, economic sectors, qualification or occupational groups it actually affects. It is also often unclear which jobs will benefit from digitization or who will bear the associated costs and to what extent. The consequences for private life have also not yet been sufficiently researched and quantified. "This is precisely where our research project comes in. With the help of an innovative questionnaire module, we want to record various aspects of digitization at the same time; a survey of employees at home is particularly suitable for this, as it gives us insights that go beyond the direct consequences at the workplace," says Kirchner, describing the central points of the project.

The interdisciplinary research project, which directly brings together economic and sociological perspectives, is being funded for 36 months with almost €600,000 from the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) and is being carried out together with Dr. Alexandra Fedorets from DIW.