Automatization, digitalization and virtualization of work in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis


The project explores how the economic and social disruptions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic affect the digitization of work in the short and medium term. We ask whether the pandemic has served as a catalyst triggering a surge of investment in digital technologies. Five sets of issues are analysed by means of a mixed-method approach combining qualitative and quantitative investigations:

  • Does the crisis induce greater investment in automation technologies such as robotics, software or artificial intelligence? Does this result in a substitution or a modification of work in industry and services?
  • Are we witnessing an accelerated introduction of digital technologies aimed at changing business models, production models and work organization? Does this result in changes concerning occupational profiles, qualifications and working conditions?
  • Are companies' efforts to enable remote work a lasting phenomenon? How does this affect the forms of collaboration, work-life balance, and gender-related inequalities?
  • Does the COVID-19 crisis encourage a geographic restructuring of value chains (“reshoring”)?
  • Are there changes with respect to both the quantity and quality of non-standard forms of employment mediated through digital platforms?

The methodology of the project is designed to identify deep structural changes that will outlast the immediate economic shock. It acknowledges that the impact of the crisis is shaped by institutional frameworks and policy interventions related to employment, social security systems, social partnerships, and investment programs. Accordingly, the analysis also aims at pointing out political options to prevent negative consequences for employees. Research is meant to contribute to develop political approaches that seek to seize the crisis as an opportunity for a socially balanced and inclusive transformation of the working world.