The digital disruption is increasingly transforming every aspect of society and economy. Amidst this, the social contract about work and labour relations are being completely reshaped. Over the last decade, platforms such as Uber, Glovo, Corner Job, Rappi, or Freelancer.com, are bringing new models of understanding the way we work and employ others, generate income, and make use of our free time. These platforms facilitate exchanges between providers of services – ‘platform workers’ or ‘gig workers’ - and clients, including individual consumers and organizations.
Platforms have emerged for tasks ranging from transportation services and food delivery to cooking and babysitting or community managers and software developers. Interactions are primarily facilitated by digital technologies – e.g., apps, algorithms, blockchain – that lower transaction costs and allow creating more flexible job opportunities in these highly accessible labor markets. At the same time, platforms have been accused of operating in disregard of existing labor regulations. In addition, they are said to benefit platform owners more than platform workers, for whom flexibility may entail high uncertainty and absence of traditional employment benefits (e.g. minimum wages, pensions, insurance).
However, it is clear that platforms are game changers and the new rules of the game are currently being shaped, both locally and globally. There is an urgent need to innovative regulations to harness potential and avoid detrimental consequences, and public perceptions of what is legitimate are changing. For this reason, it is crucial that these emerging platforms - both as operational infrastructures and institutional actors - are studied from a variety of disciplinary angles, in order to better understand the opportunities and challenges they present to the future of work. There is indeed a deep interest in the social impact of the reshaping of organizational and working templates enabled or accelerated by the digital transformation.
Reshaping Work Barcelona aims to gather the research based on case studies, regional studies or comparisons in the Spanish region, but also including examples from other Spanish-speaking countries (e.g. in Latin America). In Spain there are examples of how platformization is creating discomfort among traditional sectors or even jeopardising the fundamentals of welfare state and protection rights. However, in Latin America, the platform economy seems to be an opportunity to rebuild interpersonal trust where it has been eroded, or a chance to formalize and make visible informal and ‘under the radar’ economy activities. The low entry barriers of the gig economy in certain cases is enabling a holder for those systematically excluded (such as homeless, migrants or people on the move).
Therefore, we invite the submission of high quality and timely research contributions from different backgrounds, grouped together as Business & Economics, Sociology & Humanities, and Law. At this first regional event held in Barcelona, we aim to cover perspectives on platform labor from Spain, while also inviting contributions from researchers in Latin American countries that can enrich the discussions with their experiences.
Digital platforms allow the rise of new business models and change the nature of work by potentially increasing efficiency, reducing transaction costs, and allowing a more flexible type of work. Work on digital platforms might be characterized by ‘micro-tasks’ that are conducted by freelancers or private individuals, rather than employees. While these new business models have great potential, they also hold risks for workers, as well as for traditional enterprises. We invite contributions from the fields of business and economics that may discuss, among others, the following aspects:
New business models, relationships to traditional enterprises, and market access requirements
New ways of working, managing workforce, and the organization of work
Asymmetric information and trust-building
Effects of digital labor platforms on innovation, productivity and entrepreneurship
The role of new technologies, such as blockchain, for the emergence of new forms of platform organizations
Alternative solutions that allow workers to capture more of the value that is generated by platforms, such as portable reputations and platform cooperatives
New solutions to deliver work-related benefits to workers in platforms (training, health insurance, pensions, etc).
Online platforms that facilitate labor and service exchange have a profound impact on local and transnational labor forces, exacerbating social inequalities and cultural shifts around rhetorics of work and labor identity. A growing number of studies question the rhetoric of flexibility and autonomy and the bias and control built into the automated work process. Others lay bare deteriorating work conditions, the astonishing degree of exploitations, and the normalization of precarious work for today's employment institution. We welcome contributions from academics, worker organizations, and policy-makers to address the social and cultural implications of digital platforms for work. Studies that are informed by historical and comparative perspectives, with sounded empirical evidence are particularly welcome. Among others, we are interested in papers that address the following topics:
The social perceptions of the impact of the digital transformation on work and labor relationships
Reframing the social contract around work, worker identity, sense of belonging and the social responsibilities of digital platforms
Narratives of asymmetry and power relations through the automation of work process (e.g. performance monitoring, hiring processes)
Intersectional studies on platform work and inclusion practices (race, gender, age, class, sexual orientation, etc.)
Emerging workers' organization and individual or collective resistance strategies (platform cooperatives, mutualisation)
Critical studies on algorithmic decision-making, data analytics, digital trust and online reputation in the platform economy
Explorations into viable inclusive development agendas for fair and sustainable platform work (particularly interested in examples aligned with the SDGs and the UN 2030 Agenda).
We welcome young researchers, academics, business leaders, national and European law- and policy-makers, representatives from the temporary staffing industry, trade unionists, platform companies, and platform workers to explore and discuss the evolving intersection between the legal environment and the platform economy on critical issues that are (re)shaping the future of work and the future of workers. Accordingly, researchers, scholars and other professionals are invited to present papers across a range of legal research topics including, not limited to:
Labour law, regulation and policy: emerging trends, options, and challenges
Litigation and the paradigm of flexibility: recent cases and future developments
Collective rights, mobilization efforts and preliminary agreements in the sub-sectors of the platform economies
Discrimination across the platform economy: platforms, workers, and consumers
Liability and Risk: current practices, alternatives, and implications for allocating liability and risk
Dispute resolution: the role of arbitration, courts, and regulation
Taxation: the impact of tax design choices on the direction of the platform economy and on the role of workers in platform business models
Consumer protection and/or Competition law: impact on establishing a level playing field
Those wishing to participate in the conference by presenting a research paper/report are requested to submit an extended abstract (around 800 words, in English or Spanish) by June 14, 2019. Applicants should include their title, institutional affiliation, and indicate the division to which their work belongs (business & economics, sociology & humanities or law). Abstracts should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact Dr. Liliana Arroyo (email@example.com) with any questions you may have about scholarly contributions to this conference. Notification of acceptance will be sent in mid July.
Liliana Arroyo Moliner, ESADE Business School, (Head of the Scientiﬁc Committee, Division of Society & Humanities)
Antonio Aloisi, European University Institute, (Division of Law)
Luz Rodríguez, University of Castilla la Mancha, (Division of Law)
Jovana Karanovic, VU Amsterdam, (Division of Business & Economics)
Carmen Pagès, Interamerican Development Bank, (Division of Business & Economics)
Jordi López-Sintas, Autonomous University of Barcelona, (Division of Society & Humanities)
Maria Cecilia Trionfetti, Université libre de Bruxelles, (Division of Society & Humanities)