Digital Labor

International Labor Office Releases Report on Future of Work

March 16th, 2017

The International Labor Office has released a proposal for “a three-stage implementation plan” for a cooperative future of work. You can find the summary of their report on The Future of Work Centenary Initiative here, and the report in full here.

Cooperative responses to technological changes
Technological change is recognized as a major driver of growth and development. It is a dynamic process involving both job destruction and creation, as well as transformation of existing jobs (ILO, 2016f). The ‘sharing’ or ‘online platform’ economy, 4 characterized by peer-to-peer exchanges of goods and services and tasks completed through online platforms or mobile applications, is identified for its dynamics of participation and growth for the future of work (De Stefano, 2016). It is estimated that in the USA alone, more than 10 million people have earned incomes through online platforms (JPMorgan Chase & Co., 2016).

While some see the platform economy as an economic opportunity, there is also growing evidence that it creates unregulated marketplaces with non-standard forms of employment, eroding employment relationships and increased self-employment, resulting in worker insecurity, deteriorating working conditions, and suppressed social protection entitlements (ILO, 2016a). One potential response to the eroding employment relationship in the platform economy is the development of cooperatives, which strengthens workers’ voice and representation.

Platform cooperatives are digital platforms collectively owned and governed by the workers who depend on, participate in, and, derive livelihoods from them (Sutton, 2016). They organize emerging technologies through online applications that support production, digital labour brokering, collectively-owned and democratically-controlled web-based marketplaces, and other activities that directly support this economic model. Worker-owners in platform cooperatives share risks and benefits and negotiate better contracts, while participating in decision-making on how the platform is organised and managed.

Although they are still at early stages of development, with a number of interrelated legal, financial and organizational challenges to overcome, platform cooperatives are attracting interest from segments of the population who may not have had previous exposure to the model (Gorenflo, 2015). A growing number of taxi driver cooperatives set up their own online applications to eliminate the intermediation of ride-hailing companies which withhold rights and benefits from the drivers (Scholz, 2014). The Green Taxi Cooperative in Denver, USA, is a unionized worker cooperative that dominates the local marketplace through its successful use of a smartphone taxi-hailing service collectively owned by its members (Peck, 2016).