Research Labor economics

The Rodolfo Debenedetti Chair in Labour Economics: Addressing Modern Challenges in the Workforce

, by Andrea Costa
The Chair, held by Thomas Le Barbanchon, will investigate the implications of new technologies on age-old processes such as collective bargaining and job seeking

Thomas Le Barbanchon, of Bocconi’s Department of Economics, has been appointed new Rodolfo Debenedetti Chair in Labour Economics. This position will focus on researching how labor markets and policies adapt to a rapidly changing environment. As technological advancements and data proliferation continue to reshape the landscape of work, the Chair will delve into several pressing issues, including the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on matching processes, the role of big data in understanding workers' conditions, and the development of effective policies for both employers and jobseekers. The Chair will be officially inaugurated tomorrow, June 5.

Adapting Policies for Employers in a Dynamic Environment

One of the primary research areas for the new Chair is the development and adaptation of policies addressing employers. In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving market, employers face numerous challenges. The rise of AI and automation, shifting labor demands, and global competition require a nuanced approach to policy-making. The research will focus on creating strategies that help employers navigate these changes while promoting fair labor practices. This includes studying the impact of AI on job displacement, exploring ways to upskill and reskill the workforce, and ensuring that technological advancements do not come at the expense of workers' rights and welfare. 

According to Thomas Le Barbanchon, “by focusing on policies for employers, AI-powered services for jobseekers, and the evolution of negotiating skills in the era of AI and big data, the Chair aims to foster a more adaptive and equitable labor environment. As the world of work continues to evolve, this research will play a crucial role in shaping the future of labor economics and ensuring that both workers and employers can thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.”

Enhancing Services for Jobseekers with AI-Powered Solutions

Another crucial area of research is the provision of services to jobseekers, particularly through AI-powered tools. The integration of AI in job matching, skill assessment, and career counseling offers promising opportunities to enhance the job search process. AI can analyze vast amounts of data to identify suitable job opportunities, predict labor market trends, and provide personalized career advice. However, the deployment of AI in this context must be approached with caution to avoid biases and ensure equitable access to employment opportunities. The Chair will investigate how these AI-driven services can be optimized to benefit jobseekers, focusing on inclusivity and transparency.

Negotiating Skills and Collective Bargaining in the AI Era

The third significant focus of the Chair's research is on how negotiating skills affect collective bargaining and agreements. As AI and big data become integral parts of the workplace, they inevitably influence the dynamics of labor negotiations. Workers' representation and bargaining processes need to adapt to these changes to protect their interests effectively. The research will explore how AI can be leveraged to create new data about tradeoffs embedded in collective agreements. Additionally, it will examine the development of training programs to enhance the negotiating skills of workers’ and employers’  representatives, equipping them to handle the complexities of modern labor agreements.

Big Data: A Double-Edged Sword for Workers' Conditions

Big data presents both opportunities and challenges in understanding workers' conditions. On one hand, the continuous generation of data on workers' performance, health, and overall conditions can provide valuable insights for improving workplace environments and policies. On the other hand, there are concerns about privacy, data security, and the potential for misuse of information. The Chair will explore how big data can be harnessed responsibly to enhance workers' well-being while safeguarding their rights. This involves developing frameworks for ethical data usage and ensuring that workers have control over their own data.

Carlo De Benedetti, president of Fondazione Rodolfo Debenedetti, has remarked that “Throughout its 25 years of activity, our Foundation has promoted research on labor economics and social policies. The Chair named after my father is in line with this tradition and approach. We are happy that it is going to a brilliant economist who pays attention to the relevance of research on labor issues like Professor Thomas Le Barbanchon.”


Bocconi University
Department of Economics
Rodolfo Debenedetti