Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
02 April 2020

The future of work in the post-Covid-19 digital era

Maria Mexi’s new publication

Digital transformations have been revolutionising the world of work. The development of “gig economy” or “sharing economy” has widespread effects on social dialogue and workers’ protection throughout the globe. What are the economic, social and political implications of these new modalities of work? To what extent have they impacted state regulations and democratic participation in defining the rules of work and of social protection? These crucial questions are explored in the line of enquiry developed at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy by Dr Maria Mexi, Senior fellow and expert on EU social policy and governance, social and solidarity economy, migration and labour markets, globalization and governance.

In her new article published in Social Europe, she analyses the future of work in the post-Covid-19 digital era. “The coronavirus crisis may prove to be a major tipping point for the digital transformation of the workplace'”, explains Dr Mexi. Digital work has certainly given rise to a range of opportunities for many business and workers, but we should be wary of letting it become a permanent form of organisations for workers. In fact, today’s gig economy tends to be unprotected and deprived of social safety nets or social welfare benefits. This is most concerning during the current emergency which hits across categories: ''After doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, gig workers lacking any or adequate access to employment-insurance benefits or sick leave are the hardest hit in the United States, Europe and Asia''. When asked about how possible solutions, Dr Mexi delineates  avenues for participation in order to “bring precarious digital work into the realm of social protection”. Stakeholders need to reflect very concretly on how to “make our digital future immune to the ‘virus’ of precarity, with our labour markets built on the principle of human dignity and the potential of ‘decent digiwork’ for all”. We therefore need to have “a vision of full participation in a digital-work future which affords self-respect and dignity, security and equal opportunity, representation and voice.”

Dr Maria Mexi is a research programme director in the areas of digital work, democracy and social policy. She has received various research grants and technical assistance awards including Horizon2020 and EuropeAid. She is currently co-leading two Swiss-funded cross-national projects supported by the Swiss Network for International Studies: ''Social and Solidarity Economy, Urban Communities and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups'', and ''Gig Economy and its Implications for Social Dialogue and Workers' Protection'', as well as the EU Horizon 2020 funded project “Skills and Integration of Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum-Seekers in European Labour Markets”. Dr Mexi has served as expert evaluator for R&D project proposals for national and EU funding agencies and provides leads research on the impact of digital transformation and the gig economy on labour markets, social protection, social dialogue, and rights at work. Her ongoing work also includes studies on issues related to post-2014 migration in Europe, labour market integration, precarity, social and solidarity economy within the framework of multi-country large-scale research projects funded by European and Swiss agencies. Her new co-edited book on “Protecting Workers in the Gig Economy: A Comparative Empirical Analysis”, is forthcoming by Edward Elgar Publishing.