As precarious work becomes the norm across many countries, in tandem with international migration and entrepreneurship, what does collective bargaining look like in the future of work? What of trade unions?
Just this month, at the Parliament of Estonia, this was one of many questions asked about the future of work in conversation with Finnish innovation fund, valued at 771 million euros, Sitra. In a time of basic income trials, gig economies, and makerspaces, infrastructures around what constitutes meaningful work are increasingly being challenged in new ways.
We are in a moment that resembles an Engel’s pause, not unlike in the beginning of the industrial revolution. From Wikipedia, this was coined to characterize “the early period of the industrial revolution, when, due to great technological upheaval, the livelihood of a large number of people worsened before society began to prosper in the longer term.” How do we transition in this worsening before the prospering? Let’s go back to the question of trade unions. Can we have online trade unions? International economic migration platforms which account for individuals who work on international contracts, need visas, educate themselves internationally, and need ease of mobility.
Mentioned briefly during this session, Estonia is planning to develop a digital nomad visa. This is an innovative approach to easing the administrative duties of life increasing nomads and migrants seen internationally — one that recognizes the movement of talent, mobility of finance, and globality of markets.
In terms of data, do we think of our data as capital? Is this something we can sell or trade for services explicitly ourselves rather than allowing companies to do it on behalf of us? Like this cafe, where you pay for coffee with your data. Or do we value data in other ways, collectively? As an infrastructure itself? Can it be treated as labour itself? Much like how companies can be legal persons to reap the benefits legally, can we re-imagine this for our data as we transition to new futures of work?
Whatever the answer is, there must be digital transformations that account for the difficulties people are facing transitioning to the new economies we are developing. Let’s press play on this Engel’s pause.