About the project

About the AUTOWORK project

Work—and the ability to work—defines our human nature. But the nature of that work is changing.

AUTOWORK is an international research project funded by the Norwegian Research Council, with Norwegian and Australian researchers studying the future of work. Whether humans are replaced by machines or find themselves working alongside or within machine systems, automation transforms working life, the role of workers, the labor market, and society at large. Our main goals are to learn about and provide solutions to societal changes arising from the automation, digitalization, and robotization of work-life. We will pay special attention to diversity and inclusion and aim to ensure that the work of the future is meaningful for workers.

We will focus on three sectors poised to be profoundly affected by automation: Building, Sale and Service, and Healthcare.

The experiences and opinions of human workers will stay at the center of discussions surrounding automation. Workers will be interviewed at their workplace, where they can describe their work and how it is meaningful in relation to existing levels of automation.

The project will also feature Future Scenarios Workshops where workers, unions, managers, and technology designers together share what they imagine the future of the automation of work to be. They will allow participants to reflect on how these future scenarios may be sensed, their ethics, the gender and power relationships they may entail, and the regulatory frameworks they may require.

Why Norway and Australia?

Jobs are at risk for automation everywhere, and Norway and Australia are no different. Over the next 10-15 years it’s estimated that 25–33% of Norwegian and 40% of Australian jobs may be replaced by machines. Norway and Australia both have one of the most specialized, highest paid, and digital workforces in the world. Both have developed technological infrastructure and are positioned to become early adopters of new forms of automation.

However, Norway and Australia have unique worker contexts, with different levels of unionization, different social safety nets, and an increasing privatization of social and health services. The challenges of automation may be similar, but examining them in two countries allows us to see how the processes may play out differently for workers in different contexts.

Cross-cutting themes

We will pay special attention to four cross-cutting themes that can be the basis for action by policymakers and further research. These themes are:

  • Deskilling and reskilling: What skills are in danger of being lost by workers, and what skills will they need to develop?
  • Future everyday work practices: How can workers across sectors accommodate and trust new automated technologies?
  • Gender: How will future work life be gendered?
  • Worker communities: How can we enhance workplace communities and organization of workers in the future?
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