The largest businesses of the world today are set up on the platform model. It is often said that the modern-day capitalist does not own the means of production, but the means of “connection”. It’s worth noting, that Since 2010, there has been a five-fold rise globally in the number of such digital labour platforms that facilitate online work. The global south has a large part of this share.
These platform companies are the new, invisible bosses in this datafied world of work, relying heavily on the network effects of data, and algorithmic management tools, to capture vast markets in their respective sectors. While the innovation such platforms have brought in is admirable, it brings with it many important implications for labour law, workers’ data rights, data governance and corporate governance.
Platform Predicament - Making Sense of a Datafied Future of Work is a podcast series produced by IT for Change and supported by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, India office and Fair Green Global. Listen to experts viz. labour economy researchers, workers’ representatvives, platform workers, and platform founders, to understand the origins of platform based work, how “gig work” intersects with it, what this means for the employment question right now as well as in the coming years, the power that data holds in this work model and who holds power over it, what issues of labour rights and data rights of workers emerge, and also what alternative models of platform based work are coming up in different parts of the world, to counter some of the criticisms of the current platform model.
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Episode 1: Platforms - The Origin Story
The first episode explores how it all began - what the advent of technology has meant for the labour market, how the emergence of platform-based work has been an important implication of it and why it has gained such traction. Experts explain what platform work means for the employment question and also how it differs in the global north compared to the global south.
Episode 2 - Who Run the World (of platforms)? Algorithmic Bosses and Workers’ Rights
The second episode delves into the power that algorithms and data hold, in running this platform model of work. Experts explain how algorithmic management and control by platform apps has major implications for working conditions and worker autonomy, and how workers’ groups, through new-age organising, are negotiating workers’ rights in this algorithmmified world of work.
Episode 3 - Making Platforms Work for Workers - Data Commons and Platform Co-ops
The third and final episode talks about possible alternatives to this neoliberal platform-based model of work. As examples, the episode highlights SEWA's journey of evolving the platform model according to its members' needs, Labournet’s pilot platforms geared towards making platform-based work transparent and more regularised for gig workers and the story of Equal Care, a platform that’s making care work in the UK more decentralised, and humane.
Sonakshi Agarwal works as Project Associate - Digital Economy and Workers' Rights, at IT for Change. Her work focuses on researching unionisation within digital work, analysing labour law and policy, and tracking platformisation and digitalisation trends in traditional and new forms of labour. She has previously worked with collectives of women workers in the garment and agriculture supply chains. Sonakshi can be contacted at sonakshi(at)itforchange.net. Know more about the Podcast series here.