Managed by an Algorithm? The rise of ‘on-demand working’ and the ‘Gig Economy’

31 October 2016, 14:00 - 16:00

Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building

Free and Open to all but Registration Online is required.  If you are interested in attending please Register Online
 

Dr Ala'a Shehabi (The Work Foundation)
Valerio de Stefano (Bocconi University, Milan. International Labour Organisation)

Abstracts

Big Data underpins the operation of digital platforms which are playing an increasingly important role in managing the supply of labour and setting terms of employment in some sectors of the economy, from transport, to food delivery, to domestic repairs and cleaning. Via smartphone apps, companies such as Uber and Taskrabbit, can relay instructions, allocate tasks and monitor performance of a distributed and apparently disposable workforce. Meanwhile, online 'crowdworking' facilitated by platforms such as Amazon's Mechanical Turk or data enrichment company CrowdFlower, breaks work down into 'microtasks' which can be remunerated by the minute, rather than the hour. This seminar will examine the implications of digitally-enabled "on-demand working" for labour rights and social policy.


V De Stefano. The so-called "gig-economy" has been growing exponentially in numbers and importance in recent years but its impact on labour rights has been largely overlooked. Forms of work in the "gig-economy" include "crowd work", and "work-on-demand via apps", under which the demand and supply of working activities is matched online or via mobile apps. The presentation discusses the implications of this commodification and advocates the full recognition of activities in the gig-economy as "work". It shows how the gig-economy is not a separate silo of the economy and that is part of broader phenomena such as casualization and informalisation of work and the spread of non-standard forms of employment. It then analyses the risks associated to these activities with regard to Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as they are defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and addresses the issue of misclassification of the employment status of workers in the gig-economy. Current relevant trends are thus examined, such as the emergence of forms of self-organisation of workers. Finally, some policy proposals are critically analysed, such as the possibility of creating an intermediate category of worker between "employee" and "independent contractor" to classify work in the gig-economy, and other tentative proposals are put forward such extension of fundamental labour rights to all workers irrespective of employment status, and recognition of the role of social partners in this respect, whilst avoiding temptations of hastened deregulation.

 

Biographies

Dr Ala'a Shehabi is a senior researcher at The Work Foundation having previously been an analyst at RAND Europe. She has also worked as a researcher and lecturer in the Middle-East and as an analyst in a hedge fund. She has been a visiting fellow at the Arab Council for Social Sciences (2013), Lund University (2014), Stanford University (2015) and has been an independent research consultant for the American University of Beirut and Amnesty International.  Her research interests are in development, technology and the future of work. And has worked on projects for the European Commission, the British Academy, AT&T, Department for Culture, Media and Sport amongst others.

She has a PhD in econometrics from Imperial College London, an MSc in economics and finance from Warwick University and a BSc in economics and statistics from University College London.
 

Valerio De Stefano holds a Ph.D. in Law of Business and Commerce from Bocconi University in Milan. He joined the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2014 and currently works in the Labour Law Reform Unit of the ILO. At the ILO, he has been conducting research on non-standard forms of employment, such as temporary and casual work, temporary agency work, dependent self-employment and on forms of casual labour driven by digitalisation, such as crowdwork. On this topic, he edited a special issue of the Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal, entitled "Crowdsourcing, the Gig-Economy, and the Law". He published several peer-reviewed articles on the protection of freedom of association and trade union rights at the comparative, European and International level and the regulation of precarious work. He is also a teaching fellow in labour and employment law at Bocconi University in Milan where he also was a post-doctoral researcher from 2011 to 2014. He was a visiting academic at UCL in 2012  and a post-doctoral member at Clare Hall College, the University of Cambridge, in 2013.  

 


Part of the Ethics of Big Data Research Group, series
Organised by Ethics of Big Data Research Group in collaboration with The Work Foundation and InformAll.

Administrative assistance: gradfac@crassh.cam.ac.uk