Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training Inquiry into the Digital Transformation of Workplaces

by Fiona Macdonald and Lisa Heap

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the way we work and the jobs we do. AI innovations in workplaces can have positive benefits, including through productivity gains. However, AI applications can also have significant risks for workers and for job quality.
AI applications, including automated decision making, are not neutral processes. Software can be designed and used to assist workers by augmenting their capacity and freeing up time for more meaningful or creative work. Or it can be designed and used in ways that intensify work and displace workers.
International evidence shows the use of AI in workplaces for managing workers and work processes is extending and intensifying long-standing efficiency-driven logics that result in reduced autonomy and control and intensify work, undermining job quality and worker wellbeing. Even when designed for benevolent purposes, unintended consequences can arise from the adoption of AI in workplaces. These include serious breaches of privacy, bias and discrimination in recruitment and hiring, and unfair decision-making in performance measurement and evaluation.
In this submission we argue that the promotion of AI innovation must not overshadow objectives and principles for decent jobs and fairness at work. We set out principles for new laws to regulate the uses of AI in workplaces with a goal of protecting workers.

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