Back to search

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Workers in transition through automation, digitalization and robotization of work

Alternative title: Arbeidsliv i endring gjennom automatisering, digitalisering og robotisering

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

The research is now in its final phase. We have carried out fieldwork on Norwegian and Australian construction sites, both high-tech and more manual construction sites, in order to be able to observe a spectrum of changing craft practices. Workers at high-tech construction sites are generally surprisingly positive about automation processes and experience gains in terms of efficiency and less harmful work. A clear tendency is that the working community on the construction site is challenged by automation. We also see a tendency for the older workers to have more problems with the increasing number of digital interfaces than the younger. In the sales and service sector, we have finished the empirical studies, focusing on shop staff and self-service checkouts, and restaurant workers and automated ordering, payment and serving solutions. The corona situation has accelerated the use of such solutions and thus provided unexpected empirical richness. In the health sector, the empirical studies are now well under way. We have also conducted "future scenario workshops" for the two sectors, construction and sales and service in Norway, which are in the process of conducting them in Australia. One experience from all sectors so far is that automation and robotization should be seen in the light of the development of digital infrastructure. Here we see a key to understanding the possibilities that technologies can offer, as well as the opportunity to steer development in the desired direction. A recurring finding, which has somewhat surprised us, is that almost no one who works with robots is particularly worried about losing their job because of the robots, even though developments point towards this happening. What worries people, on the other hand, is that they will lose status - that the value of the professional work they master will decrease as a result of automation. Another development that may cause concern is that automation, by reducing the need for large work teams, means that many people now work alone, where they used to be part of a team. Here, the community of practice is at risk, with consequences socially and for effective knowledge transfer. There are many indications that there will be a need to think about measures that compensate for this development. In March 2023, we will organize our first and only physical international workshop with participants from the entire project in Singapore, halfway between Norway and Australia. In addition to this, we have organized digital gatherings and workshops. We are constantly recruiting new MA students for the project who carry out MA tasks within the subject. Reports from these are published on our website. In the autumn of 2013, we also started the policy advice activities, with participation in the Directorate of Education's workshop on the development of vocational education.

This project explores worker practices and imaginaries through automation, digitalization and robotization in the Building, Healthcare and Sale & Service sectors in Norway and Australia. By cutting-edge methods and theory, it explores how increasingly advanced, complex and intelligent machines prove capable of performing work previously mastered by humans alone. Whether humans are replaced by machines, find themselves working alongside-, or working within machine systems, automation transforms working life, the role of workers, the labour market and society at large. AUTOWORK will explore the transformation of work and trajectories towards future work-life across three sectors that are especially prone to change because of automation. AUTOWORK will also include comparative case-studies between Norway and Australia. The goal is to generate knowledge and seek solutions to societal challenges arising from the automation, digitalization and robotization of working life in relation to welfare, adaptability, inclusion and meaning. This is done by mapping trajectories towards future work-life holding meaningful places for workers, by using an innovative method of future scenarios developed bottom-up from workers practices. Future scenarios are based on workshops with relevant stakeholders and in depth fieldwork at work-sites. AUTOWORK focuses on four areas with particular knowledge needs in order to enhance meaningful and inclusive work-life also in the future: (1) Deskilling, reskilling: which skills are in danger of being lost, which new skills are needed? (2) Future everyday work practices: how can workers across sectors accommodate and trust new automated technologies? (3) Gender: how will future work life be gendered? (4) Worker community: how can we enhance workplace communities and organization of workers in the future? AUTOWORK will contribute to sustainable trajectories towards future work-life by close collaboration with key stakeholders like trade unions.

Publications from Cristin

No publications found

Funding scheme:

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon