Cracking the future of work. Automation and labor platforms in the Global South.

Published in October 2021

The book “Cracking the future of work. Automation and labor platforms in the Global South is the result of the collaboration of many. More than twenty five experts from Asia, Latin America, the Middle East & North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa transformed their valuable findings into the chapters of this book with heterogeneous perspectives. 

Developing countries face specific challenges that the standard literature has not yet managed to include as part of a truly global view on how technology and labor markets interact. This book aims to enrich the future of work debates with evidence from the Global South. This, in turn, is key for a policy agenda that needs context-specific and data-driven frameworks to promote the creation of high-quality jobs in developing countries amid the fourth industrial revolution.  

The book covers two important topics analyzing two trends that have started to permeate the Global South:

1. Automation

The first section of the book deals with the automation hypothesis. It has two chapters: “New technologies and the future of jobs in Latin America” by Irene Brambilla, Andrés César, Guillermo Falcone, Leonardo Gasparini, and “Inequality at risk of automation? Gender Differences in Routine Tasks Intensity in Developing Country Labor Markets” by Janneke Pieters, Ana Kujundzic, Rulof Burger, and Joel Gondwe. In both of them, the authors challenge the standard methodological assumption that like occupations are performed equally in different countries, regardless of their development stage and specific characteristics. This section brings fresh perspectives on relevant debates in the literature, such as the “hollowing out” phenomenon and whether the Global South is experiencing changes in employment patterns similar to those seen in the Global North due to technological change.

2. Labor platforms

The second section of the book is dedicated to labor platforms and analyzes how the diffusion of these new forms of work impacts workers in developing countries. It has three chapters: “Future of Work in the Global South: Digital Labor, New Opportunities and Challenges” by Diego Aguilar, Joaquín Gonzalez, Aileen Agüero García, and Roxana Barrantes; “Fairwork in the Platform Economy: A Global South Perspective” by Pitso Tsibolane, Maria Belen Albornoz, Arturo Arriagada, Treviliana Eka Putri, Jean-Paul Van Belle, Henry Chavez, Richard Heeks, Kelle Howson, Macarena Bonhomme, Jorge Leyton, Francisco Ibáñez, Louise Bezuidenhout, Mark Graham; and “Online Work and Women in India: The Opportunities and Limits of Digital Entrepreneurship” by Urvashi Aneja. As in the case of automation, these chapters provide new evidence to rethink the relationship between technology and jobs when considering Global South contexts.

Gender differences are analyzed cross-thematically across the book, showing how women tend to be worse prepared to face these trends. As the research agenda is still under construction, these pieces of research can be understood as raw material to kick-start a discussion that should continue to grow.

The developing country perspective is a constant throughout the book, and we hope it will contribute towards more inclusive, evidence-based, and truly global narratives on the future of work.

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