Working paper

The hidden inequalities of digitalisation in the post-pandemic context

Digital automation has affected working conditions quite broadly, beyond job loss, in several other important ways.

Publishing date
23 January 2023
Post pandemic


Digitalisation has a ‘hidden’ impact on employment, particularly on the invisible conditions of some jobs, as perceived by workers, that are relatively less explored in the literature and that could represent a substantial social cost, particularly in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We start by summarising a few main challenges of digitalisation, with a focus on the additional challenges brought about by the pandemic, the rise of platforms and alternative work arrangements, and the current attempts to regulate these. 

We then discuss the hidden aspects of inequality linked to the unmeasured side effects of digitalisation. Mental health in particular should be taken into account, particularly in the post-pandemic context, which has led to a significant amount of working from home. Also, the reduction of tasks previously done in the workplace in favour of remote working might limit social interactions, creativity and innovation potential. We conclude by suggesting areas for policy interventions. 

This paper is based on prior work by co-authors, quoted in the text when relevant. This was produced within the project “Future of Work and Inclusive Growth in Europe” with the financial support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

About the authors

  • Cristiano Codagnone

    Cristiano Codagnone graduated in economics from Bocconi University (Milan) in 1988, holds a Ph.D. (1995) in sociology from New York University, and was post-doctoral fellow at Utrecht University (1996-1997) supported by the Marie-Curie Human Capital and Mobility Fellowship. Currently he holds a double academic affiliation, as aggregate professor at at Milan State University (Department of Social and Political Sciences) and at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC, Department of Communication Studies); in Barcelona he is the Director of the UOC spin-off research company Open Evidence SL and of the Research Group Applied Social Science and Behavioural Economics (ASSBE). Beween July 2014 and December he was Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Media and Communication Department of London School of Economics. In the course of his academic career he has also taken several leaves of absence to serve as civil servant at the United Nations (2003-2004) and at the European Union (2009-2011 and 2015-2016). Since 2012 he has designed and directed several experimental behavioural studies to test policy options on behalf of the European Commission in various domains (tobacco packaging, online gambling, car labelling, online marketing to children, transparency of online platforms). Starting in September 2017, still on behalf of the Commission, he will direct a behavioural study on non standard forms of work with respect to attitutudes and awareness towards social protection and employment benefits. This represents a continuation of the work he conducted between 2015 and 2016 on the sharing economy and on online labour platforms, which represent two of the most exhaustive and comprehensive critical essays on this topic and have informed the European Commission communication on the Collaborative Economy released in June of 2016. Cristiano mixed throughout his professional career an interest for high-level social and economic theory, empirical research, and for their practical and concrete applications. He is an academic with a clear entrepreneurial bend and track record in fund raising and managing teams of knowledge workers; he has founded and spearheaded three research companies, and in the last decades he directed dozens of consulting work and policy applied research engagements.

  • Maria Savona

    Maria Savona is Professor of Innovation and Evolutionary Economics, University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) and Professor of Applied Economics at the Department of Economics and Finance at LUISS University, Rome. She has been Honorary Research Fellow at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK, and Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Lille 1, France. She is an economist and holds a Laurea in Economics cum laude from the Department of Economics at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (BA), and a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from SPRU.

    She co-leads for SPRU a H2020 on PILLARS (Pathways to Inclusive Labour Markets) grant (2021-2023); she leads tender for the Greater London Authority on Fixing the broken link between productivity and wages; she has led a Joseph Rowntree Foundation grant on The Local Distribution of Productivity Gains: Heterogenous effects (LODGE); a UK Economic and Social Research Council grant, on Technical change, employment & inequality. A spatial analysis of households & plant data (TEMPIS); and SPRU contribution to the H2020 Innovation-Fuelled, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth (ISIGrowth). She has co-led a joint SPRU-IDS project funded by the IDRC on Pathways of Structural Change and Inclusive Development.

    She has advised and produced commissioned reports for the European Commission (DG CONNECT and DG EMPLOYMENT); the IADB, Inter-American Development Bank; ECLAC, United Nation Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; UN ESCAP, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; OECD; NESTA, UK National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts; BIS, UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; DETI, Irish Department of Trade and Industry. She has delivered keynotes on global structural change and the economics of innovation in services at the UCL School of Slavonic Studies, London; Universities of Berlin, Bremen, Jena, Strasbourg; Accademia dei Lincei, Rome; Inter-American Development Bank, Bogota, Colombia; the Economic Commission Latin American Countries (ECLAC); Max Planck Institute of Economics; Seville (Institute Prospective Technology Studies) and several others.

    More recently, she has been invited in ‘Thought Leadership’ expert panels by the EC, the UK Department of Industry and Trade, the UKRI, ECLAC, UNDESA, EY, EC JRC, NESTA, Microsoft and Aspen Institute, OECD and Wolskwagen Foundation.

    She has designed, launched and directed the MSc in Innovation for International Sustainable Development (now Sustainable Development) at SPRU.

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