On 13 December, Klemens Witte, a research associate at the DOC Research Institute, gave a presentation on ‘The Digitalisation of the Economy and the Future of Work’ to master’s degree students at the University of Applied Sciences (hwtk) in Berlin.
Current academic discourse on the impact of technological change on the labour market is divided as to whether automation will lead to job losses or gains. However, there is agreement that retraining and reskilling will be increasingly important as the role of ‘platform’ companies – such as Google, Amazon, Didi, Alibaba, Yandex.Taxi and Airbnb – continues to grow.
Klemens presented the results of his fieldwork into working conditions of drivers for Yandex.Taxi in Moscow, and explained the challenges that algorithm-based management of people poses for the future of work.
Academic literature, which often takes a Euro-centric perspective, and highlights a number of pros and cons of the ‘gig economy’. On the negative side, these include income insecurity, low pay, unreliability of work and poor communication with customers, substantial downward pressures on income, stress, anxiety and lack of workers’ representation. Positives include the opportunity to be one’s own boss and dictate when and where one works, job creation and increased incomes for the worst off in society, and a higher quality of work with a reduction of dangerous or monotonous tasks.
A key finding of the Yandex.Taxi study was that no drivers surveyed complained about the absence of social benefits. One driver asked about pension payments stated: “You never know what will happen.” Unlike in