Impact assessment of AI-enabled automation on the workplace and employment. The case of Portugal

  • José Barata (President of Jury)
  • José Manuel Mendonça (Main Examiner)
  • Tommaso Pardi (Main Examiner)
  • Moniz, A. B. (Examiner)
  • Yuri Lima (Examiner)

Activity: Examination


Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to lead to a wave of innovation in organiza-tional design, changes in the workplace and create disruptive effects in the employment sys-tems across the world. Moreover, the future deployment of broad-spectrum algorithms capa-ble of being used in wide areas of application (e.g., industrial robotics, software and data anal-ysis, decision-making) can lead to considerable changes in current work patterns, swiftly render many unemployed across the globe and profoundly destabilize labour relations. The impacts of AI are estimated to lead to a reduction of millions of workplaces. But qualitative research about AI and its governance is scarce. An emergent technology requires a technology assess-ment (TA) approach to understand the implications of AI in firms. Mechanisms of industrial democracy can help to adopt AI by ensuring adequate arrangements for employees and avoid-ing conflicts (mitigating negative effects, promoting reskilling, etc.). In this research work, the probable penetration of AI in the manufacturing sector is identified to study its effects in work organization and employment in Portugal. Is the employ-ment changing alongside recent AI trends in Portugal? What are the expectable changes in work organisation due to AI-enabled automation? Are there signs of work qualification to go with AI systems implementation? Are there visions on the role of humans on the interaction with the features of industry 4.0? Does that imply new forms of human interaction with AI? These are the questions this research work will try to answer. A TA approach using mixed methods was applied to conduct statistical analyses of relevant databases, interviews with ac-ademic, industrial and social actors and exploratory scenarios of AI-based automation systems, on work organization and employment. The manufacturing industry was the chosen sector since it is the sector where most cases of AI-based automation systems are in place. Findings suggest that, until now, it seems AI is still not able to replace most of the human skills and cognitive capacities but can replace humans on simple tasks. In the future, four different possible states may occur, according to the various initial conditions, the com-pany's motivation, their business strategy, the public policies in place and main social actors involved: Re-organisation of work; Substitution of the workforce; People at the centre and Fo-cus on Efficiency. These were the basis for our scenario outcomes.
PeriodSept 2019Jul 2023
ExamineeMarta Sofia Guilherme Silva Candeias
Examination held at
Degree of RecognitionInternational