The 12th COTEC EUROPE discusses the future of work with the presence of three Heads of State

The 12th COTEC EUROPE Meeting was attended by the Heads of State of Spain, Italy and Portugal, as well as business leaders from the three countries, with a total of more than 500 participants, including 120 national and international media representatives, this Wednesday, at the Mafra Convent.

Subordinated to the theme “WORK 4.0, Rethinking the Human-Technology Alliance”, and in the context of a new joint report prepared by COTEC organizations, the panel discussions were attended by business leaders from the three countries, representatives from the academic, social and policy areas, in dialogue about the challenges, risks and opportunities inherent in the ongoing transition to an economic and social context dominated by new forms of collaboration and connections between people and intelligent machines.

The Economic Context facilitates change

The COTEC Europe 2018 Meeting took place in a favourable context for the world, European and COTEC countries. In addition to economic performance indicators, there is an increasing rise in confidence and declining unemployment rates. Therefore, conditions are created for a qualitative leap led by the consolidated application of digital technologies in the context of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. The success of this transition will be determined by the strength of the economy and the balance that can be established between the economy and the aspirations of citizens and societies.

The Transformation of Work is a complex problem of which the issues of qualification and retraining of skills are only one of its factors. To fully understand the challenge, it is necessary to take a systemic view of the aspirations and needs of the different players for the management of behavioural change in organizations and societies.

Positive Political Perspective

The event opened with the statements of Manuel Caldeira Cabral, Minister of the Economy, who stated that “this revolution of digitalization is already bringing strong changes to companies, the way they work and the organization of work. But there is a very clear notion that many of the changes which are happening in pilot areas, are happening in some companies, but are going to spread to many more. And they are still happening only to a certain extent, with much greater potential for development. ” At the same time, he stressed that public policies should favour the training of workers to benefit from the advancement of new technologies at the expense of regulation that limits the arrival of these technologies to the market.

In turn, the Secretary of State for Industry, Ana Teresa Lehmann, made a positive assessment of the first year of the national strategy for Industry 4.0.

The human factor will be decisive

The Directors-General of COTEC organizations set the framework for the theme of the event. According to Jorge Portugal, Director General of COTEC Portugal, “in order to have customer preferences, companies need to respond more and more quickly and with better quality in products and services. Today, performance expectations are increasingly high, the service standard is that of companies like AMAZON and it is through it that customers measure everyone else’s quality. So they have to work in an instant response regime”. He added that “in order to function in an increasingly short time scale without increasing stress, anguish and a sense of loss of control, it is necessary that people, at all levels of the organization, feel empowered with clear objectives, autonomy, means and consequent responsibility for functions with spheres of increasing scope”.

The dialogue between a futurist, a humorist and a sociologist made it possible to confront the perspectives of Arlindo Oliveira, president of the Instituto Superior Técnico, Carvalho da Silva, sociologist and researcher, and Eduardo Madeira, humorist and screenwriter.

The futurist defined the technological stage and fields of human and artificial intelligence, in which the life of societies, people and their communities could take place. The humorist creatively expressed the thinking and feeling of the common European man of 2018, of the language of the street, reflecting the state of digital awareness, aspirations and fears. The sociologist reconciled the theory with a long practice of union life, adding to the previous approach of the individual the dimension of the collective, of the workers’ representativeness.

The lively and sometimes controversial debate focused on the need to preserve people’s right to time, new forms of work, the need for regulation and the risks that this new revolution could bring more inequality.

The panel dedicated to business experience, with the participation of Pedro Rocha e Melo, vice president of Brisa, José Manuel González-Paramo, executive director of BBVA, and Cristiano Camponeschi, partner of Deloitte, discussed the concrete cases of digital transformation for adaptation to market demands, including the work environment and preparing people for new business processes.

At the institutional session, the European Commission was represented by the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation. Carlos Moedas stressed the gaps that need to be overcome in the long term, namely, “at the intersection of the digital and the physical” and between the USA and the EU, in terms of commercialization of the latest technology. According to the Commissioner, “the biggest asset in Europe is diversity. Today, we cannot innovate without diversity. And I see it in any country. Finland is changing the education system at this intersection. It is a world where we have to teach people not to be afraid”.

The President of COTEC Portugal, Francisco de Lacerda, highlighted the idea that “this is a People’s revolution. And it is about people that we are talking about today. People are and will continue to be the most important capital of companies and societies. Companies that will be in a state of permanent need for transformation, for which we all have to prepare and adapt. Without this preparation, we will witness an inevitable degradation of the work environment and quality of life ”- concluded the President of the Direction of COTEC Portugal.

The 12th COTEC Europe Encounter closed with interventions from the three heads of state. First, His Excellency the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, pointed out that “the theme chosen for our reflection in the digital age is one of the most delicate challenges that the European Union, as a whole, has to face”. Adding that “there have been radical changes in the social fabric of our countries”, which seems to show “an economy where resources seem to be limitless and unlimited also seem to be their uses”. His Majesty, the King of Spain, D. Filipe IV of Spain, then addressed the idea that “the path that has been followed by these technologies is not free from obstacles”. However, “the societies that led the industrial revolution are today among the richest” and, adds Filipe IV of Spain, “in the last century, the most qualified and diversified work has not stopped growing worldwide”.

Finally, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in his closing speech, noted that “we must continue to be universal, as was Rome, the birthplace of our Latin matrix. We have to be profoundly European, remaking the European Union, without hesitation and states of mind ”. In this sense, continued the President of the Republic, “the success of our companies and our entrepreneurs is evident. The majority, made up of micro, small and medium-sized companies, facing the crises of the beginning of the century and understanding that a new paradigm had opened a different cycle in the world economy and in the national economies ”. Now, “wouldn’t this 4.0 economy require a 4.0 European Union? I agree that nothing will stop the change, but it can be more or less quick and more or less just ”- questioned the President.