In this workshop, we explore contemporary transformations of work and employment in the Global South and the ways in which the process of digitization initiate, trigger, affect, or redirect these changes.
Digitization is rapidly changing the face of work across the world, including the Global South. As experts are discussing the impact of new language models such as ChatGPT and other applications in literally every corner of the world, the role of artificial intelligence as a disruptive technology is now beyond dispute. Digitization has the capacity to transform entire professions, giving rise to new technological elites with particular skills and cultural capital while devaluing other types of work and workers. It also changes the way people search for work, and the ways work is organized over time through employment trajectories and biographies. And, importantly, digitization – as the process of technological change that involves shifts of the material and ideational infrastructures underlying work – is itself a laborious endeavor, e.g. a process that requires work to be done and which produces economic value that is unequally distributed. At the same time, there are increased political efforts to promote job creation through digitization, in Africa and elsewhere, based on political fears especially in Europe but also in North America and parts of Asia that lack of jobs and employment in resource-poor settings will heighten the pressure on mass migration, lead to political instability and potentially produce or deepen ethnic and political cleavages.
In this workshop, we explore contemporary transformations of work and employment in the Global South and the ways in which the process of digitization initiate, trigger, affect, or redirect these changes. We are interested in sociological and anthropological studies on digitization and work across the lines of sectoral difference differences that are often seen as dominant, e.g. private vs. public, informal vs. formal, high-skilled vs. low skilled and so on. We assume that, albeit indirectly, digitization affects all types of work in one way or another, and that contemporary societies digitization and work need to be studies in conjunction. Moreover, we want to know what is the relationship between digitization and decent work? In which sectors does digitization produce acceptable working conditions and in which see we new or ongoing exploitation?
We are particularly interested in the following questions:
- Which discourses on digitization/ digital revolution are prevalent in societies of the Global South?
- How are global political efforts to promote job creation in the digital age understood and taken up and how do these political efforts play out?
- How do these efforts and the digitization of work more broadly, transform the experience of work and the hierarchies between sectors, types of employment, jobs and the related skills?
- How does the labor on which digitization is based reconfigure or reproduce the place of societies in the Global South in global value chains and global economic hierarchies?
- What is the role of tech start-ups and the digital sector in cultural and economic imaginaries of highly different societies and how do these imaginaries shape people’s ideas about job and careers?
- How does digitization change the work environments in sectors that are closely tied to sustainable development goals such as healthcare, governance, and education?
- Which jobs offer good working conditions as a consequence of digitization and which ones are exploitative and/or precarious? Can we identify general tendencies if digitization improves or worsens working conditions?
Day 1: Monday, 9 October 2023
13:30 – 13:45 Welcome and Introduction (Florian Stoll & Marian Burchardt, Leipzig)
13:45 – 14:30 “Labour turnover and employment biographies in Ghana” (Marian Burchardt and Florian Stoll, Leipzig)
14:30 – 15:15 “Push and pull factors for turnover. Results from biographical interviews” (Sylvia Ohene Marfo, Accra)
15:15 - 15:30 Coffee break
15:30 – 16:15 “Ethiopia´s textile industry. A hotspot of social transformation" (Reimer Gronemeyer, Gießen)
16:15 – 17:00 “New Middle-Classes or Reproduction of Global Inequality? IT Jobs in Ghana between New Opportunities, Exclusion, and Brain Drain” (Florian Stoll, Leipzig)
17:00 – 17:45 Discussion
18:45 Walk to conference dinner with sightseeing
19:30 Conference dinner
Day 2 Tuesday, 10 October 2023
9:15 – 10:00 Medical drones in Africa: Reconfiguring the health system workforce (Edwin Ambani Ameso, Leipzig)
10:00 – 10:45 “Taking Gerschenkron to the field. Public opinion on the future of work in Ghana.” (Achim Kemmerling and Evans Awuni, Erfurt)
10:45 – 11:00 Coffee break
11:00 – 11:45 “Entrepreneurial manifestations of Facebook groups for women only in Egypt” (Shaden Kamel, Bayreuth )
11:15 – 12:30 Discussion
12:30 – 13:45 Lunch
13:45 – 14:30 “Inclusion of the fittest. Precarious entrepreneurs and discipline through debt in Nairobi's gig economy” (Gianluca Iazzolini, Manchester)
14:30 – 15:15 “The Politics of Digital Self-Entrepreneurship: Reflections on the Brazilian case” (Arthur Oliveira Bueno, Passau)
15:15 – 15:30 Coffee break
15:30 – 16:15 “Hectic States: Digitization and the redistribution of bureaucratic capacities in India” (Srividya Balasubramanian, Leipzig)
16:15 – 17:00 Round table “Digitization and work in the Global South. What is new and what will change?” (Achim Kemmerling, Shaden Kamel, Gianluca Iazzolino, Marian Burchardt)
17:00 – 17:30 Final discussion
19:30 Conference dinner
Convenors: Marian Burchardt & Florian Stoll (Leipzig University)
If you are interested in attending the conference, please email to florian.stoll(at)uni-leipzig.de. There will also be a live stream of the presentations.