Amy Merrick, Walmart’s Future Workforce: Robots and Freelancers, The Atlantic, April 4, 2018
Robots & Freelancers
The Walmart of the future relies more heavily on the gig economy and automation. This is an indication of the fierce competition between Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, and Amazon. A pair of recent studiessuggests that it’s also a sign that the U.S. economy is tilting further toward jobs that give workers less market power.
This shift could be good for workers, in theory, if the flexibility of the gig economy lets them switch more easily between employers to take advantage of higher-paying offers. Yet in their analysis of the online-task marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk, the researchers find that this isn’t necessarily happening.
Through the WI Lens
Signs abound that most economies, the US in particular, are tilting further towards jobs that give workers less market power. Walmart epitomises this trend: it is raising wages, but its plans to use more gig labor and automation put workers at a disadvantage. In a nutshell, the labour markers are being ‘gig-ified’ with ensuing concern: not about the number of jobs, but whether those jobs can support a reasonable standard of living.
This, in turn, means that the quality of service often becomes sub-optimal with dramatic consequences for consumer centric businesses (most of which are in the hospitality industry). The question for business executives is: how to reconcile profitability with ‘good employment’ that includes, for example, fair remuneration and a sense of purpose? Focusing too much on short-termism by sacrificing workers’ interest for the benefit of the P&L can kill a business in the longer term by putting off customers. Examples abound.
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