The Realities and the Futures of Work

Monday, April 15, 2019 11:30am to 1:30pm
Labor Education Center, Room 115


SMLR's Center for Global Work & Employment will present the third lecture in the series on "The Global Debate on the Future of Work" on Monday, April 15, 2019. David Peetz (Griffith Business School) will discusses his forthcoming book “The Realities and the Futures of Work” and Wilma Liebman (formerly NLRB and Rutgers SMLR) will discuss how his conclusion grounded in the evolution of Australian employment relations translate to the US.

Lunch will be served.

There is a lot of talk about how many jobs will be lost through artificial intelligence, robotics and other forms of automation.  However a lot of this discussion misses the point about where the future of work may take us—or where we may take it.  Technological change has been blamed by some for causing the recent increase in inequality, but the forces are deeper than that and there is a more complex relationship between technological change and inequality. A key feature of the present economy, that will shape the future of work, is the interplay between flexibility, insecurity and emerging corporate models of “not there” employment.  New models of corporate organization are designed to minimize costs, risk and accountability while maximizing control.  As the employment relationship is the most efficient mechanism by which capital can exert control over the labor process, there has been no consistent increase in self-employment in recent years, despite all the publicity about ‘freelancing’.  That said, the capabilities of new ‘platform’ technologies appear to enable new forms of control with less reliance on the employment relationship alongside low-cost business models of questionable sustainability. Some of the most important aspects of future technology will be the implications it has for surveillance and control at work.  There are also important questions about the interaction between technology and gender, and what it means for the future of women at work.  Critical, though, is the changing environment for new technology, in particular the effects of the decline of organized labor, changes to the legal environment, and financialisation.  Some of the policy implications to be considered are the question of a ‘robot’ tax, policies regarding retraining and labor adjustment, policies about redistribution, the regulation of the finance sector and work, including the ‘gig’ economy, ethics in the development on new technology, and policies to redress power imbalances and enable technology to be deployed positively. We also need to consider what this means for the future of organized labor.