1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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The Gig Economy and Social Security: Towards a (New) Digital Precariat?

Welcome to the UNRISD Ideas Incubator!

This is a space where we take special care of ideas for new research projects. The idea on this page is still being developed: it is a “pre-project”, not yet fully fledged or funded. To join us in accelerating research on this issue, please get in touch!

The rapid advance of digital technologies has left an undeniable mark on the shape of modern labour markets, blurring the lines of what it is to be formally employed. Whether called the “gig economy”, the “sharing economy” or the “on-demand economy”, the growth of non-standard forms of employment around the globe has uncertain impacts on the welfare of workers and their basic rights to work and to social security.

The Gig Economy project will explore how the digital economy is affecting the welfare and well-being of workers in both standard and non-standard employment. It will focus on the relationship between the gig economy and the emerging global precariat, which faces unstable employment and chronic income insecurity. It will ask, at both intra- and international levels: Who benefits from the rise of the gig economy, and who risks being left behind? What are the implications for social security for workers? How can countries—particularly those in the Global South—develop or reform their institutions to respond to the fast-changing digital landscape of the labour market? Findings will help countries looking to reap the benefits of the digital economy without falling prey to unintended social consequences.

Join The Gig Economy and Social Security: Towards a (New) Digital Precariat? in the following ways:

Contact paul.ladd@un.org if you are in a position to provide
the financial support necessary to build an evidence base on these topics.

Contact ilcheong.yi@un.org if you want to commission investigative work to UNRISD;
you would like to co-design one of these project ideas in collaboration with UNRISD;
or you would like to join UNRISD as a
Visiting Research Fellow to work on one of these ideas.

Contact jenifer.freedman@un.org if you agree that these are important areas for research
and you want to help us gain support for them by spreading the word.

This research idea has informed the inquiry From Disruption to Transformation? Linking Technology and Human Rights for Sustainable Development. Be sure to visit that project page and read the latest Think Pieces on the topic.

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UNRISD does not receive funding from the regular budget of the United Nations. As an extrabudgetary UN entity, the Institute depends entirely on voluntary contributions to carry out all our activities. To join us in accelerating research on this issue, please email us.


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