Tomorrow's Economy

Work in the Digital Age

Is it possible for progressives to present a vision of the future of work that harnesses the power of technology, but puts people at its heart?

A new comparative project by Max Neufeind (Das Progressive Zentrum), Jacqueline O’Reilly (University of Sussex) and Florian Ranft (Policy Network) sheds light on the impact of these developments across Europe and beyond. While global in nature, the fourth industrial revolution is evidently moving at different speeds through different national contexts. Drawing on a wide range of international expertise, a major new publication examines the critical policy challenges arising from the transformation of work in the digital age.

In a series of essays, we hear from more than 50 policy experts across the world on the effects of automation, platform business models, stagnating productivity, and rising level of inequality within and between countries. They consider how to unlock the vast economic and social potential of new technologies and the implications for policy innovation at the firm, sectoral and state level.

We’ll be publishing the full volume due in June, but over coming weeks we will highlighting a cross-section of contribution that set the context of the debate. Starting with a few below, with more to come:

 

 

Following the launch of the book, we’ll be bringing together key thinkers and policymakers at a series of conferences across Europe, the first event taking place in Paris in July.

The enormous growth in the rate of IT computing power, storage capacity, connectedness and software applications is transforming employment, disrupting businesses and challenging labour regulations. Businesses and governments grapple to contain the quasi-anarchic deployment of apps, data analytics and new forms of business and employment. Employees scramble to be, or to stay, connected. A proliferation of digital platforms is creating new kinds of good and poor quality jobs and businesses opportunities. Positive and pessimistic scenarios abound of an increasingly fragmented, digitalised and flexible transformation of work across the globe, a transformation that is hoped will boost economic growth, raise productivity levels and create an inclusive new vision of social integration for all in the digital age.

The fourth industrial revolution is characterised by a blurring of the distinctions between physical, digital and biological spheres, as major technological advancements are having a profound impact on economies, businesses and the personal lives of people throughout the world. Some of the technological forces in this transition include the development of big data, algorithmic management, 3D printing, quantum computing, smart robots, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things, nanotechnology, biotechnology and alternative forms of energy technology. These debates have recently received considerable media and government attention, for example in the German Industry 4.0 debate, and in the 2017 independent, UK-government-commissioned Taylor review of modern working practices report.

Shining a light on the very different experiences of work in the digital age, this project provides a unique contribution to the reform discussion on the consequences of the fourth industrial revolution. Drawing on a wide range of international expertise, contributors examine important policy challenges arising from the transformation of work as a result of the introduction of digital technology at work.

Policy experts and thinkers discuss the effects of automation, platform business models, stagnating productivity, increasing regional disparities, and rising levels of inequality within and between countries. They consider how to unlock the vast economic and social potential of new technologies and the implications for policy reform to meet these challenges.

Mastering them requires developing a new inclusive narrative and progressive reform agenda. Such an agenda would be economic and political, and not determined universally by technology. The narrative is not only about what policymakers need to do, which is rather a lot. It is also about reforming established organisations and institutions, understanding new emerging players and supporting disaffected citizens in how the effects of these changes are going to affect their lives. This collection of essays clearly pinpoints what needs to be done to support the transition to work in the digital era.