IGF 2020 WS #355 Internet and the future of work: a Global South perspective

Thematic Track

Organizer 1: Hartmut Glaser, Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br)
Organizer 2: Juliano Cappi, NIC.br
Organizer 3: Beatriz Rossi Corrales, NIC.br
Organizer 4: Sergio Amadeu da Silveira Silveira, CGI.br

Speaker 1: Rafael Evangelista, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Erika Molina, Intergovernmental Organization, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Sergio Amadeu da Silveira Silveira, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Moderator

Sergio Amadeu da Silveira Silveira, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Online Moderator

Beatriz Rossi Corrales, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Rapporteur

Juliano Cappi, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Format

Round Table - Circle - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

(i) What policy alternatives should be consider to improve the digital platforms’ role in providing productive employment, rights, safety and non-exploitative work? (ii) What is the overall impact of the Internet Economy on the future of work?

The workshop aims at discussing policy alternatives to improve the digital platforms’ role in providing productive employment, rights, safety and non-exploitative work. To answer this question the workshop will debate the following issues: (a) the overall impact of the Internet Economy to work (b) the review of the modern concept of work from the global south perspective; (c) the ILO’s framework to cope with the challenges of digital labor platforms and (d) possible new policy perspectives to address the challenges of a changing social scenario in the labor field.

SDGs

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities

Description:

The relationship between technology and labor has historically been controversial and full of tensions. As technology evolves, jobs creation and destruction happen in tandem with several of social, economic and cultural implications for the people. Skills that are needed for workers to cope with the demands from the market, the reduction of the levels of wages practiced in given context, lack of opportunities for decent work, growing unemployment, pressures exerted over social security systems are examples of how labor market is affected by the development of technology, and how social governance is challenged. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), member states agree that technological advances can allow developing countries to jump over older technologies and embark on a new development pathway. The deployment of information and communication technologies, for example, has facilitated transferability and increased the value added of some services, which have the potential to contribute to economic and employment growth. However the increasing automation in manufacturing may produce unemployment if productivity growth is not accompanied by employment growth. Moreover, informal employment in 2016 reached 61% of the global labour workforce. This means that around 2 billion workers were pursuing economic activities either not covered at all, or insufficiently covered, by formal arrangements in law or in practice (ILO, 2019). The emergence of platform-based business models have contributed to the increase of informality and to an important change of status in employment. Increasing fragmentation of production processes which is a direct consequence of technological development, has led to more unstable employment and income. Digital platforms created marketplaces allowing real-time hiring of labor to attend a large spectrum of social demands that goes far beyond transportation services, such as IT programming to graphic design, copy-writing, real state services, babysitting, among others. On these platforms, workers offer businesses the possibility of completing projects at any time, day or night. Digital labour platforms classify their workers as self-employed, thereby denying them labour protections and employer-provided social security benefits. The terms and conditions of working on the platforms are laid out unilaterally by the platforms which states how and when workers will be paid, how their work will be evaluated, and what rights workers have when they need. Moreover, as workers are categorized as independent contractors, they are usually deprived of the right to organize collectively (BERG, 2019). The effects of digital labor platforms are more profound in the Global South. Poverty, high level of income inequality and specially high unemployment rates make the conditions of work offered by digital platforms more attractive in these countries. Low qualification requirements and the the kind of remuneration only apparently higher than other occupations at the same level are elements that also contribute to a consolidation and spread of digital labor platforms that reach high levels of pervasiveness only possible in those countries. The extension of flexibilization in Internet-related jobs in global south countries has contributed to an indistinct treatment between what is and what is not working time, a fusion between the professional and the private spheres and difficulties in implementing public instituted mediation of work regulation on a national level. There is a multitude of people working in new “invisible” productive activities (not the socially established forms of work) that can move between leisure, creativity, consumption and also income supplementation. It is an absence of the concrete form of work, which means the full flexibility and malleability of an activity that, however, takes place as work. The impacts of the intensification and the global reach of the Internet Economy in labor market today calls for urgent actions. The contribution of the Global South perspective to understand informality in the digital age can be used to review the global debate on public policy frameworks dealing with the challenges related to the broad transformation of the very idea of work. The format chosen for this session is a round table. To kick-start the session, we expect to have three presentations of 10 minutes each. The first one will discuss the overall impact of the Platform Economy to work . The second will present briefly the debate on the review of the modern concept of work that has been done in the Global South, more specifically, in South American countries. Finally, we expect a representative of the International Labor Organization to present the work of the Global Commission on the Future of Work. After that we will have a 30 minutes debate to enable both interventions from selected experts representing the full range of the multistakeholder Internet community and contribution from the audience to assess the ILO's public policy framework considering the Global South perspective. Finally the diversity of the audience will play a fundamental role in the last 30 minutes to work on alternative policy perspectives to deal with the impacts of platform capitalism in work. To facilitate the discussions we will have an on-site moderator. Intended agenda: Presentations by experts - 30 min Overarching discussion to assess the ILO's public policy framework (speakers and audience) - 30 min Overarching discussion on alternative policy perspectives (speakers and audience) - 30 min

Expected Outcomes

We expect to provide an assessment of the ILO's framework on Increasing investment in Decent and Sustainable work an possible new policy perspectives to address the challenges of a changing social scenario in the labor field.

The discussion will be facilitated by the on-site moderator who will guide the debate in each of the proposed segments for the workshop as well as during the Q&A session. The online moderator will make sure the remote participants are represented in the debate.

Relevance to Internet Governance: The evolving Internet economy and all the surrounding attached technologies, artifacts, realities and all sorts of innovations that impact work, workforce and work relations have been carefully scrutinized by different stakeholders, as society have faced big shifts in how to frame labor in a 21st century perspective. The challenge placed by platforms to the future of work represents a relevant aspect of the intersection between Internet governance agenda and the pursuit to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). When workers are spread throughout the world, and may not live in the same country where the platform or clients are located, it is not a simple matter for regulators to address working conditions. At the international level, in January 2019 the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work called for the “development of an international governance system for digital labor platforms that sets and requires platforms (and their clients) to respect certain minimum rights and protections” (ILO 2019). IGF provides a space for building an important contribution to this international governance system being set up by ILO.

Relevance to Theme: Much faith has been laid on digital inclusion. Since the Internet has become a reality many scholars and public agents have put a lot of hope on the capacity of the Internet to democratize opportunities, promote economic and social development and reduce inequalities. However, despite connectivity has increased in all social strata, vulnerable groups such as the unemployed, underemployed and digital illiterates, are more exposed to incipient problems, such as the use of personal data violations, disinformation and exclusion of opportunities caused by algorithm ratings. One of the fields impacted by the pervasiveness of Internet economy is labor. The advancement of informality and the flexibilization of work conditions resulted partially by the increase in platform-related jobs has urged the discussion on how informal workers are much more likely to live in conditions of poverty than formal workers and how the increasing vulnerability of the workforce conditions is contributing to increase inequalities. The workshop raises an important debate on the meaning of digital inclusion through reflecting upon the future of work.

Online Participation

 

Usage of IGF Official Tool. Additional Tools proposed: Online participation and interaction will rely on the WebEx platform (or any other online participation tool provided by the IGF organization). Those joining the session using WebEx (either invited members of the round-table or the general audience) will be granted the floor in the Q&A segment of the workshop. People in charge of the moderation will strive to entertain on-site and remote participation indiscriminately. Social media (twitter and facebook) will also be employed by the online moderator who will be in charge of browsing social media using some hashtags (to be defined). Intended agenda: Presentations by experts - 30 min Overarching discussion to assess the ILO's public policy framework (speakers and audience) - 30 min Overarching discussion on alternative policy perspectives (speakers and audience) - 30 min