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We're Hiring! Postdoc to focus on 'fair work' on digital work platforms in South Africa

We are about to launch a new phase of the Fairwork project in South Africa with our colleagues at the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape, the University of Manchester, and the University of Oxford. I'll share full details of the next stages of the project next week. But, in the meantime, please help share this job ad. It is for a full-time 29-month postdoc to work directly with Professor Jean-Paul van Belle (UCT) along with Professor Richard Heeks (Manchester), Jamie Woodcock (Oxford), and myself. We hope to have someone in place at the University of Cape Town as soon as possible so that we can start the project in the next few months. Again, please share widely with any people/lists/forums that you think might be interested/suitable.

 

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP: EVALUATING DIGITAL WORK PLATFORMS IN SOUTH AFRICA AGAINST DECENT WORK STANDARDS

Closing Date: 31 August 2018
 

The Centre for Information Technology and National Development in Africa (CITANDA) wishes to appoint a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (PDRF) in the evaluation of digital work platforms (Uber, SweepSouth, Upwork, etc.) in South Africa against decent work standards.

The PDRF will conduct research for a multi-disciplinary research project supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council as part of its GCRF New Models of Sustainable Development programme. The research project aims to (i) improve working conditions for digital platform-workers in low- and middle-income countries; (ii) develop a certification scheme designed to set minimum standards for decent work and actively certify platforms through a newly-created “Fairwork Foundation”; and (iii) create a Code of Practice for South African platforms.

The PDRF will be responsible for a discrete area of research that seeks to understand key structural and individual-level concerns relating to platform work in South Africa; the key issues and obstacles experienced by South African platform workers; and the differentiation of such issues for particularly disadvantaged or vulnerable sub-groups. This will involve both desk and primary field research, most likely conducted in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The PDRF role is an exciting opportunity to undertake cutting-edge research on a topic that is central to the future of work and to the harnessing of digital technologies for socio-economic development. Working within CITANDA, you will be part of a well-resourced, culturally-diverse and friendly research unit. More broadly, you will be working as part of a collaborative and multi-disciplinary team of world-leading academics from the University of Cape Town (Prof. JP van Belle), University of the Western Cape (Prof. Darcy du Toit), University of Oxford (Prof. Sandy Fredman, Prof. Mark Graham) and University of Manchester (Prof. Richard Heeks) spanning internet studies, law, information systems and development studies.

 

Academic/experience criteria:

Required

  • A PhD, awarded within the previous five years, in a relevant field which could include – but is not limited to – internet studies, information systems, development studies, or work and employment.

  • Strong skills in the planning, implementation, software-based analysis and write-up of primary field data.

  • Practical experience of qualitative fieldwork in a global South context.

  • Demonstrated ability to undertake desk-based evidence reviews.

  • Demonstrated capacity to produce peer-reviewed research articles.

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.

  • Ability to work independently within a research team and to meet deadlines.

Desirable

  • Knowledge and experience of field research in South Africa.

  • Knowledge of South African official languages other than English.

  • Specific expertise relating to digital platform work.

  • Prior experience of working on research projects.

Conditions of award:

  • Applicants must have completed their doctoral degrees within the past 5 years and may not previously have held a full-time permanent professional or academic post.

  • No benefits or allowances are included in the Fellowship but the fellowship stipend is tax free.

  • As part of their professional development, the successful candidate may be required to participate in a limited capacity in other CITANDA activities such as teaching and/or student supervision.

  • The successful applicant will be required to register as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cape Town immediately and will not be considered a UCT employee.

  • The successful applicant will be required to comply with the university’s approved policies, procedures and practices for the postdoctoral sector.

Value and tenure:

  • The value of the fellowship is ZAR 260,000 pa and is tenable for up to 29 months. A performance review will happen after the first year. Any further extension would be dependent on performance, and sourcing of additional funding for the post.

Application requirements:

Applicants should submit (i) an application letter that includes a short description of their expertise and research interests, and how these relate to the position, specifically addressing the required and desirable criteria listed, (ii) a CV including a publication list, iii) a copy of their PhD thesis and up to two published or submitted papers, (iv) copies of academic transcripts and/or certificates, and (v) email addresses of at least two referees directly involved in their PhD and/or previous postdoctoral research.

Applications should be emailed before noon on 31 August 2018 to freda.parker@uct.ac.za with cc to jean-paul.vanbelle@uct.ac.za.

Selection process:

  • Only eligible and complete applications will be considered by the selection committee.

  • Interviews are likely to take place in September 2018 and the successful candidate is expected to start as soon as possible thereafter.

Closing date:

Applications received before 31 August are guaranteed to be considered. Applications received thereafter may be considered if the position has not been filled.

Contact details for submission of applications: Freda Parker at freda.parker@uct.ac.za

Contact details for enquiries about the fellowship topic: Jean-Paul.VanBelle@uct.ac.za

Additional information on CITANDA and UCT can be found at: www.citanda.uct.ac.za / www.uct.ac.za

The University of Cape Town reserves the right to disqualify ineligible, incomplete and/or inappropriate applications. The University of Cape Town also reserves the right to change the conditions of the award or to make no award at all.

 

My re:publica contribution: ': Perspectives from developing countries - It’s the End of the work as we know It (and I feel fine)!'

Earlier this month, I was on a panel at re:publica titled 'Perspectives from developing countries - It’s the End of the work as we know It (and I feel fine)!'. Half of the panel is in German, but if you (aren't a German speaker) can skip through to the English-language parts.

 

 

 

 

 

Help us shape the Fairwork Foundation: request for feedback

In an earlier post, I described a new initiative that we recently started: The Fairwork Foundation. The goal of the Foundation is to certify key standards in the platform economy. By setting those standards, and certifying platforms against them, we hope to try to work against a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions. Workers avoid unfair contracts, and platforms and consumers will be able to avoid acting unethically.

To get this right, we'll need to make sure that we understand what fair work actually means in the gig economy. In other words, what are the standards we want to certify against?

Next month, we'll be hosting meetings at UNCTAD and the ILO in which we bring together platforms, trade unions, policy makers, and academics in order to discuss how to define fair work in the platform economy. But, we'd also like your help. If you have any opinions on standards that we should be thinking about, or ways in which we should be implementing them, we'd love to hear from you. We've created this form for you to submit your ideas: bit.ly/FairworkForm

We look forward to your thoughts, and please do pass along the link to anyone else who you think might have something to add.

To read more about our plans, we've put together this short article:

Graham, M. and Woodcock, J. 2018. Towards a Fairer Platform Economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation. Alternate Routes. 29. 242-253.

 

 

The Future of Work in the Global South
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A network that I am part of - the The Future of Work in Developing Countries initiative - has just put out a new publication titled 'The Future of Work in the Global South'.

You can download the full publication here. It also contains a piece by my colleagues and I on the potentials of the gig economy in developing countries.

Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, L., Wood., A., Barnard, H., and Hjorth, I. 2018. Could Online Gig Work Drive Development in Lower-income Countries? In Galperin, H., and Alarcon, A. The Future of Work in the Global South. Ottawa: IDRC. 8-11.

I include the introduction below:

More than a billion people are set to enter the job market in less than three years, mostly from low- and lower-middle-income countries. Online gig work—paid work managed via online platforms with no contract for long-term employment—has been seen by economic development experts as a relatively welcome phenomenon, allowing these workers to compete frictionlessly in a global marketplace. Policymakers hope regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia can capitalize on this digitally mediated work opportunity, thereby addressing a global mismatch in supply and demand of (online) labor. In the face of low wages in emerging economies and youth-to-adult unemployment rates hitting historic peaks, Internet-based marketplaces might permit a “virtual migration” offering economic benefits akin to physical migration, lifting people out of poverty, raising labor force participation, and improving productivity.

But are these hopes really justified? Drawing on 152 interviews, a survey of 456 workers, and transaction data from one of the world’s largest online gig work platforms, we discuss some of the risks and rewards of this “new world of work”. There will be benefits like increased pay and autonomy for many, but concerns include downward pressure on pay generally, long hours, discrimination, lack of social contact for some, and the disembedding of gig-platforms from the norms and laws that normally regulate labor intermediaries. By drawing attention to these issues, we hope to help platform operators improve their positive impact, help workers take
action to improve their situations, and prompt policy makers to revisit regulation as it applies to workers, clients, and platforms.

Related work

Graham, M. and Anwar, M.A. 2018. Digital Labour In: Digital Geographies Ash, J., Kitchin, R. and Leszczynski, A. (eds.). Sage. London.

Graham, M. and Woodcock, J. 2018. Towards a Fairer Platform Economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation. Alternate Routes. 29. 242-253.

Graham, M and Shaw, J. (eds). 2017. Towards a Fairer Gig Economy. London: Meatspace Press.

Graham, M., Hjorth, I., Lehdonvirta, V. 2017. Digital labour and development: impacts of global digital labour platforms and the gig economy on worker livelihoods. Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research. 23 (2) 135-162.