Equity and visibility along the supply chain.
Today's digital technologies rely upon the extraction of non-renewable resources and labour which numerous processes render invisible and often amounts to modern slavery. This exacerbates social inequalities and global North-South injustice. Supply chains as well as the inequality footprint of our technology must be made visible. Exploitative working conditions must end and profits must be shared equitably along the chain of production.
»Global tech production is highly integrated but its profits are not shared equally between its workers. Tech supply chains, production and delivery rely largely on forced or cheap labour, which affect women disproportionately, particularly in the Global South. Since feminist theories of technology aim to challenge the patriarchal, capitalist, and colonialist systems that permeate tech economic activities, enforcing this principle is essential to achieving a feminist digital future. This principle applies to labour that is visible and labour that is made invisible.
First, the visible. Gig workers who perform their duties as freelancers or temporary contractors commonly lack minimum labour rights, such as protection against unfair dismissal, minimum wage or paid holidays. While blue-collar tech workers perform manual labour for companies as permanent employees, both they and gig workers frequently receive low pay, suffer demands for improved performance, and work in gruelling conditions. Worldwide, these workers push for the recognition of employment conditions with the digital platforms and unionisation.
Second, the invisible. Gig economy “ghost work” (a term coined by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri) comprises “high-tech piecework” to improve systems and platforms. It is unseen by consumers, underappreciated by companies and commonly contracted through third parties with low compensation and precarious working conditions. It moves around the world according to labour costs, mostly in the Global South. Extracting the raw materials the tech industry also relies on work that is rendered invisible. Often, it is performed under unsafe and unhealthy conditions, commonly as informal or forced labour. Extraction concentrates in a few countries and is not environmentally sustainable.. Many of these workers cannot afford the products their labour helps build or maintain.
The tech production chain is complex and expanding. This principle applies to other forms of labour not mentioned here. However, the struggle is the same: make the future of tech labour feminist, fair and equal.«
Who can inspire us with their work?
»Fairwork is led by the OII at the University of Oxford and sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The project aims to track and enhance working conditions at digital labour platforms. Platforms are divided into gig work, which is geographically tethered, and cloudwork, which is not. Via desk research and surveys with workers and platform managers, researchers then evaluate working conditions. They score each platform according to five principles (fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation) to conclude whether or not it grants workers fair labour conditions. Research institutes worldwide collaborate on the project and its information can be accessed in five different languages.« — Carolina Reis