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Analyzing the future of work

Society is inevitably transforming into a more digitized version. As a result of the constant advancements in technology happening every day, the nature of work and employment is constantly changing. Automation, the creation of robots, the introduction of technological gadgets in educational settings, and the wider use of social media are just a few examples showcasing the impact of digitization on modern society.

The rapid integration of those technological aspects naturally raises questions about the future of work. More specifically, the future of work in relation to digital labor. Questions range from changing working environments to increasing dependence on technology, and the meaning of digital labor itself.

Firstly, what is digital labor? In order to analyze the future of work, it is necessary to be informed of the definition of the term foremost. Digital labor is mainly characterized by the integration of technological aspects through performing work online on platforms. The majority of work on these online platforms is categorized as short-term.

Secondly, what are the features of digital labor? Other than being characterized as solely online, there exist various features that explain digital labor. One factor of digital labor is the lack of standard work contracts. Since the majority of work in digital labor is done independently, there is a lack of standardized contracts outlining the employees’ rights and obligations. This benefits employers in ways that they have the power and ability to fire employees without notice at any time. Next, wages are paid based on your results. Rather than being paid monthly on a fixed wage, employees in digital labor are paid based on their services or products produced. This might suggest that an employee would have to work longer hours to be able to provide substantial income to support themself. Lastly, is flexibility in work. Due to the absence of a fixed contract, employees have flexibility in ways that they can work at any time accordingly Despite low wages, there is flexibility in work that can allow people to take care of other responsibilities which makes it appealing for many people.

One prominent example of a platform consisting of digital labor would be the taxi-delivery service Uber. The service works through the Uber mobile app, where one can order a taxi car at any time and any place by sending a nearby driver to your location. Uber functions as a form of on-demand work, where one works only at times when needed. The company markets itself in ways that offer a variety of benefits to its employees. By becoming an Uber driver, the employee benefits in terms of gaining independence and flexibility by having the ability to plan their work times accordingly to their own schedule. Consequently, this gives them the power of control instead of being under the supervision of someone else. The opportunity to meet new people through interaction and communication with people from diverse places helps develop a sense of community for Uber drivers which is an additional characteristic that is portrayed as desirable.

However, there are many critiques that appear from digital labor in relation to Uber. One debate that emerged is the question of to what extent an employee has control and independence through their work. How much information is being given to the Uber drivers beforehand? How much flexibility do they have when it comes to changing their shifts? These are all critical questions that require to be answered. Moreover, flexibility comes with negative side effects like unfixed wages, which means that the amount of income employees can earn are unpredictable and offer no sense of security. This leads to employees being required to take longer shifts, even during the weekends, in order to be able to earn sufficient income. Moreover, due to a lack of fixed work contracts, Uber employees lose many vital work benefits like pensions. As a result of this stress, many Uber drivers are faced with a mental toll that can impact their well-being both emotionally and physically.

Although work with digital labor provides unique features and benefits to future employment, it is crucial to note the possible negative consequences they can incur.

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