The ILO 4 Committee on Innovation focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the digital economy.

It was the scene of passionate and intense debates during these 3 days of conference, with differences of views but obviously always with respect, despite some speeches being somewhat vehement.

The two issues addressed were: 

How to protect workers whose jobs could disappear and how to use AI to improve working conditions and enable new opportunities?

Is the digital economy a path to more and better jobs for young people?

The first issue particularly divided the ILO 4 committee, with various political positions and different opinions on the measures to be adopted.

Some delegates were pleased to answer our questions on their positions and ideas regarding the resolutions, as well as countries considered allies. We thank these delegates for the valuable time they have given us and which has allowed us to better understand the dynamics of the different countries and the different alliances that have formed. It is thanks to them that we can bring you a clear and objective vision of the debates that took place in ILO 4.

During the lobbying phase, several countries came together and after a while we had three different groups that eventually merged into two groups. The first brought together mainly the United States and Sweden, which initially disagreed, and the second was rather composed of China and several emerging countries, such as Mexico or Eswatini. 

Following the exciting speech of Janine Berg, we witnessed a phase of debate between the various states on the clauses previously discussed, sometimes in a climate of conflict, particularly between the delegate of the Chinese government and that of the United States. Delegates clashed in a merciless debate, where China even asked for a motion of apology and censure in the face of some aggressive arguments from other delegates who accused it of denying the facts. 

During the amendment phase, the Swedish employers’ delegate wished to delete a clause, which provoked a disagreement on the part of the Swedish government delegate, giving rise to a new debate between several countries, such as Japan, theUni, USA, or Eswatini.

Following the amendment phase, the resolution carried by China was finally adopted by an absolute majority, followed by the US resolution.

The second issue, focused on the digital economy, resulted in two resolutions, one presented by the Indian government and the other by the employers of Morocco. Both were based on the sharing of resources, the education of new generations, as well as assistance to less developed countries, for which there is a real technological gap compared to countries with higher labour intensity. 

Before starting the lobbying phase, some delegations had the opportunity to present their position, including Indonesian workers, who expressed interest in creating laws to protect data and promote digital security. The Government of Guatemala also shared with the committee its concern about the many inequalities in the world, which it believes are an essential factor to consider during the debate.

Two main groups were formed during the lobbying phase, one chaired by the Indian government and the other by the workers’ delegation of Morocco. The Colombian employers, notable signatories of the resolution carried by India, stressed their need for assistance from developed countries, motivated by a lack of resources as well as the need to improve their infrastructure, unsuited to the use of digital tools. On the other hand, employers in the UK have expressed an interest in higher education in digitalisation, particularly in the higher education programme, although they are not signatories to either resolution. 

After the introduction of the first resolution (the one carried by India), several delegations questioned certain points such as the origin and reliability of the aid funds, the possible dependence of the population on large private companies that would result from the adoption of this resolution, or the difference in levels between students from developed and less developed countries. The open debate then officially began with an amendment from the UK government, supported by the US government, calling for the removal of a clause on the establishment of a minimum wage for independent contractors. The British delegation showed a solid mastery of the subject by denouncing the legal default of the clause, any notion of flexibility, although essential to self-employment, being then lost. This resolution was adopted after the inclusion of clauses in favour of persons with disabilities and promoting inclusiveness.

The debate on the second resolution, written by Moroccan workers, was however more controversial. The legitimacy of the Chinese government’s comments was again questioned and the committee had difficulty finding common ground. The debate nevertheless gave rise to fruitful discussions, particularly on the support of ethical technologies including «white cap» hackers. The resolution was adopted, although with less enthusiasm than the previous one.

Lucile Fournier, Claire Chardin and Cyrielle Bouline.