European Tech Insights 2020

Technology is transforming the world around us and this brings a combination of excitement and opportunity, but also challenges to our way of life, labor and how we safeguard what is ours. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most significant events in decades and it will shape processes, trends and our way of life for years to come.

The second edition of the annual European Tech Insights explores what citizens across nine European countries feel about key issues of change: automation, data privacy and surveillance, the growth and regulation of leading technological companies, the gig economy and climate change. We also included the US, China and Mexico to compare and contrast perceptions.

European Tech Insights 2020 covered 2,883 respondents across the globe and included a second wave of surveys in April 2020, which shows how the pandemic has changed perceptions in the hardest hit countries.

Covid-19 has had a major impact on global attitudes towards data privacy, politics and the regulation of new technologies

Our research shows that citizens of the hardest-hit countries by Covid-19 are changing their attitudes and becoming more willing to make concessions in privacy and freedom of movement.

The number of citizens that are willing to reduce their privacy through more CCTV or social network surveillance by governments has grown after the onset of the pandemic by, 19 % in China, 15 % in Italy and 4 % in Spain.

Before the pandemic, 47 % of Europeans believed that governments should not share their citizens’ health records with companies but now willingness to share has increased by 12 % in Italy, 11 % in Spain and 10 % in the US and China.

37 % of young Europeans (18-35 years old) are excited about the possibility of using digital avatars with access to our data to profile our values instead of politicians to represent their interests in national parliaments.

Younger Europeans are in favor of limiting automation by law in order to save jobs, while Chinese citizens see a bigger potential in technological change leading to job loss, but are less willing to limit automation.

A majority of Europeans— with as many as 70 % of Britons—find confidence in their own skills and think that robots and computers will not be able to do their jobs better than them within the next 10 years.

After onset of the pandemic, support for limiting automation in order to save jobs almost doubled in China, from 27 % to 54 %, and there was a 13 % increase in Spain as well.

Most Europeans (56 %) think that there is a low or very low probability of their countries shortening the workweek to four days.

robots

There is a notable cultural split on perceptions towards tech giants. A large number of Europeans favor limiting their size and raising their corporate tax, while Chinese and US respondents are more supportive of them.

31 % of Europeans believe that governments should limit the size or even descale the GAFA companies because “they are bad for competitiveness and democracy”.

53 % of Italians and 40 % of Spaniards favor raising taxes on big tech companies to enable governments to finance the recovery post-COVID, whereas the US and China, home of the most tech companies, are in favour of raising taxes for all companies—not just tech ones.

A majority of Europeans favour forcing companies such as Uber and Deliveroo to comply with the same labour rules than traditional companies, while 46 % of them find ethically regrettable to use these services due to the way they treat their workers.

European Tech Insights 2020 research substantiates the common conception that states are increasingly embracing protectionist ideas.

41 % of Europeans think that Europe should follow the American example and raise tariffs on Chinese products to protect its regional economy. However, very few translate this to action to prioritize buying technology made in Europe.

This position is particularly popular in France and Poland, where over 50 % of citizens support more trade barriers. In contrast, Germany and Estonia are strongly against.

Europeans are in favor of limiting flying and driving in order to reduce the environmental damage.

A large majority of Europeans surveyed (70 %) think that governments should increase taxes on air travel, particularly on domestic flights that can be substituted by a train journey.

A significant proportion of Europeans favours reducing the number of cars in the streets through increased taxes or limits on access to city centers.

Authors and contributors

Diego Rubio

IE University

Carlos Lastra Anadon

IE University

Carl Benedikt Frey

University of Oxford

Christina J. Colclough

UNI Global Union

Oscar Jonsson

IE University

Carlos Luca de Tena

IE University

Irene Menéndez

IE University

Survey Methodology

European Tech Insights 2020 was conducted in January and April 2020. We interviewed 2,883 adults from 11 countries, with an initial sample of 250 respondents by country. Samples were representative in terms of age and sex. Respondents are part of recurrent panels recruited by Netquest or affiliated companies into panels via social media, direct mailing or through referrals from other respondents.

Previous editions

European Tech Insights 2019 confirmed a shared intuition among researchers: the Fourth Industrial Revolution is producing a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty among our fellow citizens.

To find out more download our report below.