"We always talk about the future of work in the singular, and there is no single possible solution." The phrase by Liliana Arroyo, a researcher at the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation, summarizes the essence of the debate surrounding the future of work. He regrets that when we think about platforms and work, we are usually stuck in the debate over whether Deliveroo deliverymen or Uber drivers are employees or self-employed workers. “There are many platforms to cover many needs and not all in the same conditions. The work has been pixelated, it is no longer a still photo of a job for life, ”adds Arroyo. That is the conclusion of the study. The digital labor market to debate. Platforms, Workers, Rights and WorkerTech by Albert Cañigueral, the Alma mater of the event Reshaping Work (a non-profit initiative born in 2016 in Amsterdam) that Ouishare He has brought this week to Barcelona.
The new commissioner of Digital Innovation, Electronic Administration and Good Governance of the Barcelona City Council -Michael Donaldson- notes that the word stability in all facets, and in particular work, it tends to disappear (and that the Public Administration is one of the few exceptions to this rule). "The Internet is assuming a digital revolution at the height of the Industrial Revolution, and it is essential to understand where these changes are going," he says.
Against the grandiloquent statements, the author and researcher of the University of Castilla La Mancha Luz Rodríguez, member of the Advisory Council of Sagardoy and former secretary of State for Employment of the Spanish Government (2010-2012). “Narratives are not innocent. From technology it is said that everything is radically new and disruptive and that we must banish everything done so far: it is the idea of obsolescence of guarantees and labor institutions, ”says Rodríguez. In his opinion, this is a worrying mistake. "What is now is not radically new and you don't have to throw away everything built in the past, including rights."
Rodriguez believes, however, that we have to adapt to the new reality and that we have to do it in a dialogical way: “We must have a great conversation about the impact of technology on our lives and jobs and about what we want its channeling to be. We don't have to go where the technological advance takes us, but we have to define this advance, ”he says. The researcher highlights five areas of labor impact of technology. The first is employability and training: between what is destroyed and what is created there will be a transformation of the work for which one must prepare. "Without training for the advancement of technology, a good part of the population will not be employable." The expert argues that the institutional architecture of employment and training policies does not allow it to do it properly, "since it is dysfunctional for the purpose of the challenge of training large layers of the population for the new digital era."
Working time also changes, since technology allows work at any time and place. “That generates an autonomy that we never had before but, if we are not careful, it can become work at all times and in all places, with which we lose autonomy,” says Rodríguez. All the borders that had marked labor institutions for more than a century - he says - have been dropped, "so we have to talk about new instruments such as the right to disconnection."
The control of privacy also becomes an element to consider: although technology allows us to be freer in the work relationship, it also allows us to control everything we do: when, where we work and with what results. “The recognition of the digital rights of transparency, of the obligations of information, participation and negotiation on the part of the workers, must balance the strengthening of the business power linked to technological mechanisms so that it does not turn us into pure machines when dictating the orders and controls that technology issues, ”he says.
Health and social protection are the other two elements of the list. How are we going to provide coverage in the not too distant future where the volume of employment will fall around 12% (according to the figures for Spain in the report The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries of the OECD), with contribution ages that start later and are not totally continuous or ascending ?, asks the researcher, who puts on the table solutions such as Universal Basic Income or that quote the robots.
Regarding the platform economy, it emphasizes that less than 3% of the working population has its main source of income on digital platforms (according to data from Spain in the report Fingerprint: The work platform in Europe from the University of Hertfordshire and Ipsos MORI), although these have been at the center of the debate. Spain is, however, the country in Europe with more workers on platforms: almost 17% of people of working age have already developed some type of economic activity through them. In most cases, this is a complementary source of income.
What jobs do platform workers do? "We have a wrong idea, the distributors and drivers are a minority, compared to about 40% is simple jobs from the computer, and legal services or accounting assistance," he says. Focusing that of public debate on a minority may imply that the measures taken are only aimed at it and do not take into account the reality of the majority.
Coincides with this analysis Carlos del Barrio, Secretary of Sector Policies and Sustainability of CC.OO. of Catalonia. “Our last study shows that platform work is just the tip of the iceberg. Although 19% of the Catalan population say they have earned income through the internet, less than 5% say they work or have worked through a platform. Of those 280,000 people - says Del Barrio - between 1,000 and 2,000 are distributors. "Work on platforms is being developed in many other areas such as logistics or translation," he says. What worries him is that these people "have increasingly higher qualification, which confirms that higher level studies are no longer a social lift."
Despite the data, the debate over whether the distributors who work with companies such as Glovo, Deliveroo, Uber Eats or Stuart are self-employed or employees continue to light passions, which was manifested in Reshaping Work through a group of syndicated distributors who increased to Representatives of Glovo and APRA (another group of distributors) during their participation in the event. If something was clear, the only thing that different actors agree on is the need for solutions so that it is not the courts that regulate the sentence.
“The business model of these platforms is based on outsourcing the work: in not recognizing all the employer and social quotas that have to be contributed to social security, and in carrying the responsibility on the backs of the workers”, Del Barrio says. Rodríguez exposes the possible solutions to the problem, beyond the claims of each other. One option is to create an alternative figure where a new type of work is channeled, which would go beyond the distributors and extend to other jobs. on-line such as youtuber or that of cryptocurrency miners.
Another option, of which the researcher is more supportive, is the French one, which moves away from the debate on the legal status of workers to talk about rights and obligations. “There are certain social protection rights that classically belonged to the world of work - the right to health, to a stable income, to sickness and unemployment coverage, paid vacations, transparency… - that need to expand to other models of greater vulnerability such as these ”, He says.
Given this reality, what can people do to benefit from it, instead of suffering it? Rodríguez argues that the impact of the platforms comes first through consumption, and then has an impact on work. Therefore, he believes that it is essential that, as consumers, we become aware of what is happening. “Uber we are all. If we consume low cost, we generate labor market low cost"Concludes
In the framework of the digital economy, work freelance grows by the type of task that is performed on-line. It tends to be assumed that this growth has a general effect on the basis of freelancers. An assumption that, in the case of Spain, is wrong. “Everything is in question. There is a lot of headline but not so much official data, ”says Jordi Serrano, founding partner of Future for Work Institute. “The self-employed are growing six times less than last year, the boom is stagnant, ”says Celia Ferrero, vice president of the Association of Autonomous Workers (ATA).
It is said that the future of work is freelance, but the self-employed do not grow. What there is, says Ferrero, is a very high turnover: older people come out and many young people start to enter, especially many women and in scientific and technical activities. "There has been a change of profile of the autonomous in Spain that we are not aware of," he says. According to ATA estimates, self-employed workers in the country represent between 15% and 18% of GDP.
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