Digital Futures at Work Research Centre
Digital Futures at Work Research Centre


A global analysis of worker protest in digital labour platforms

This paper presents findings from the Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest, a database of platform worker protest events around the world which gathers data from online news media reports and other online sources. For the period January 2017 to July 2020, we identified 1,271 instances of worker protest in four platform sectors: ride-hailing, food delivery, courier services and grocery delivery. Our results show that the single most important cause of platform worker protest is pay, with other protested issues including employment status, and health and safety. In most global regions, strikes, log-offs and demonstrations predominated as a form [...]

2022-06-28T16:07:21+01:0028 June 2022|

Robots at the Gates? Robotic Process Automation, Skills and Institutions in Knowledge-Intensive Business Services

Abstract Against the backdrop of the fourth industrial revolution, this paper examines the emergence of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as one of the new technologies that are shaping the future of work and reconfiguring sectoral business and innovation systems and models. It discusses how the institutional context can potentially mediate the digital transformation of services, how RPA affects workers’ employment and skills, and how it alters inter-organisational relationships and capabilities. Bringing together different strands of academic literature on employment studies, innovation, and technology studies, it deploys a comparative institutional perspective to explore the potential effects of RPA and illustrates [...]

2022-06-13T12:11:33+01:009 May 2022|

Inequalities in the disruption of paid work during the Covid-19 pandemic: A world systems analysis of core, semi-periphery, and periphery states

This article reveals the extent of international inequalities in the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on participation in paid work. Drawing on World Systems Theory (WST) and a novel quasi-experimental analysis of nationally representative household panel surveys across 20 countries, the study finds a much sharper increase in the likelihood of dropping out of paid work in semi-periphery and periphery states relative to core states. We establish a causal link between such international disparities and the early trajectories of state interventions in the labor market. Further analysis demonstrates that within all three world systems delayed, less stringent interventions [...]

2022-04-26T10:14:35+01:0026 April 2022|

Rapid recruitment in retail: Leveraging AI in the hiring of hourly paid frontline associates during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Abstract Increased demand due to the Coronavirus pandemic created the need for Walmart to onboard tens of thousands of workers in a short period. This acted as a catalyst for Walmart to bring forward existing plans to update the hiring system for store-level hourly paid associates in its US stores. The Rapid Recruitment project sought to make hiring safer, faster, fairer and more effective by removing in-person interviews and leveraging machine learning and predictive analytics. This working paper reports on a case study of the Rapid Recruitment project involving semi-structured qualitative interviews with members of the project team and [...]

2022-06-13T16:58:56+01:0029 March 2022|

Innovation Work Chains in US Retail: Automation, Tracking and AI Adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract The 2020 global pandemic led to record grocery sales and significantly accelerated the adoption of online retail services. This trend is expected to grow as mainstream retailers aim to keep up with the speed of delivery from ‘digitally native’ competitors and changing consumer expectations.  Technological innovation is being introduced to different parts of the retail supply chain leading to a changing landscape for jobs. Here we develop the concept of Innovation Work Chains (IWC). We use this framing to discuss how the introduction of different types of innovative technology are likely to impact on employment practices across the [...]

2022-06-13T16:59:55+01:0023 March 2022|

Measuring the impact of AI on jobs at the organization level: Lessons from a survey of UK business leaders

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have reignited debates about the impact of technology on the future of work, raising concerns about massive job losses. However, extant evidence is beset by methodological limitations. The majority of studies are either (1) based on modelling predictions, underpinned by subjective judgements or (2) measure the effect of automation technologies more broadly using proxies for AI effects. Analysis of what actually happens in organisations introducing AI-enabled technologies is lacking. This Research Note proposes a third methodology based on the use of bespoke employer surveys. Drawing on a new and unique survey of UK business [...]

2022-03-10T16:11:03+00:001 March 2022|

Measuring the size, characteristics and consequences of digital work

Abstract This working paper provides a summary assessment of the existing literature and data on digital forms of employment internationally. It illustrates the variability in how it is defined, how it is growing and what kind of risks are associated with these developments. Evaluation of these types of jobs is divided. On one hand, optimists point to the attractions and relative ease in finding employment on digital platforms; on the other hand, more critical perspectives argue that these employment contracts can result in exclusion from social protection systems. The evidence indicates that while overall a relatively small proportion of [...]

2022-03-02T10:45:47+00:001 March 2022|

Employer Participation in Active Labour Market Policies in the United Kingdom and Denmark: The Effect of Employer Associations as Social Networks and the Mediating Role of Collective Voice

Active labour market policies (ALMPs) have evolved as pivotal social policy instruments designed to place the unemployed and other disadvantaged groups in sustainable employment. Yet, little is known about what drives employer participation in such initiatives. This article provides a nuanced account of the socio-economic aspects of the demand-side of ALMPs, by investigating employer embeddedness in wider social networks created by employer associations and employee collective voice as enabling mechanisms for employer participation in ALMPs. Drawing on an original survey of employers in the United Kingdom (UK) and Denmark, we found that the extent of employer embeddedness in such [...]

2022-03-10T17:37:16+00:0012 February 2022|

Making Light Work: An End to Toil in the Twenty-First Century

Is work a primordial curse? Or a spiritual calling? Or is it a tedious necessity that technology will abolish, freeing us to indulge lives of leisure? In this book David A. Spencer argues that work is only an alienating burden because of the nature of work under capitalism. He makes the case not for the abolition of work – which can remain a source of meaning and dignity - but for its lightening. Engaging with thinkers ranging from Marx and William Morris to Keynes and Graeber, he rejects the idea that high-quality work can only be open to a [...]

2022-04-13T14:01:44+01:001 February 2022|
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