What does internetzentriert

The fragmented workforce

An engineer enters a company at the age of 24 and leaves it at the age of 65. This is already a rarity today, but it will be a sensational rarity in the future. The employer-loyal colleague who has been with the company for 40 years is followed by the creatively self-employed, where everything is flexible: workplace, working hours and client. Work is centered on the Internet.

The future world of work will above all be a world of work in which the old, stable employer-employee structures have largely melted away.

In the USA there is already talk of a job revolution in which the old normal employment relationship is being replaced by increasingly flexible forms. The focus is on the figure of the creative self-employed, where virtually everything is flexible: workplace, working hours and client. He collaborates with other creative people on temporary projects via the Internet, works for several companies and in various jobs. The downside of being free from old time and routine constraints is the social vulnerability that new forms of protection require.

“Just as the workers used to lower the plow to work on the assembly line, today they leave the office to work in the coffee shop.” At least that's what US author Sara Horowitz thinks in her article on the future of work for the magazine “ Atlantic ".

USA: 42 million Americans have atypical jobs

With her sentence she describes the fundamental change that is currently taking place in the US labor market. According to this, 42 million Americans work in atypical employment relationships - as freelancers, temporary workers, consultants, with contracts for work and as self-employed.

You work in different jobs at the same time, work for different clients and rely on different skills. Everywhere we look we see a serious change in working relationships, said the journalist. Today a career consists of combining different types of jobs, serving different customers, learning how to market yourself and organizing workplaces in bedrooms, coffee houses or coworking spaces.

"Gig Economy" is one of the names for this new world of work, in which the type of workforce has been split up into individual lone fighters. “Nation of freelancers”, “rise of the creative class” or “e-economy” are other expressions for this development. In French they are called more sobering with the term “bricolage”, the tinkered existence and identity.

One trend is the “granularization” of working relationships on the one hand, and tasks on the other. The development in the USA mentioned by Sara Horowitz is not unknown in Germany either. According to the microcensus, the proportion of atypical employment beyond normal employment has increased from 16.2% in 1998 to 22.2% ten years later, according to Christian Winger's study "The change in forms of employment and its significance for the income situation of those in employment" ( in: Economy and Statistics, Volume 11).

Granularization of working relationships means that more and more people, especially in the creative field, but also in all other industries, are becoming “labor entrepreneurs” who are themselves responsible for the exploitation and marketing of their labor.

The trend among companies is towards "numerical flexibility"

The previously large, homogeneous mass of normal working relationships is dissolving and is being partially replaced by flexible forms of cooperation such as temporary work, freelancing or contract work.

Business psychologist Rainer Wieland from the Bergische Universität Wuppertal explains that the trend in companies is towards “numerical flexibility”, in which companies try to reduce their personnel capacity to a safe “base load”, i.e. a fixed minimum core workforce.

Order peaks are then absorbed by employing a flexible workforce. Part of the normal working relationship is becoming more and more fluid, so it is still unclear how big this part will be.

One facet of the granularization of labor relationships is the granularization of work tasks themselves, as occurs in the concept of crowdsourcing. In general, this is understood to mean the outsourcing of a task to an Internet collective, from whose midst the task is solved in a division of labor or in a kind of competition.

Günter Voss from the TU Chemnitz defines it scientifically as follows: "Crowdsourcing is an interactive form of service provision that is organized collaboratively or competitively and includes a large number of extrinsically or intrinsically motivated actors with different levels of knowledge based on Web 2.0."

The Internet is becoming the new interface between client and contractor

The crucial point here is that tasks that were previously done within a company are now outsourced and the Internet acts as an interface between client and contractor. Platforms such as “Clickworker” offer the granularization of tasks, such as translating or creating texts, and distribute the unraveled work package to what they say are 180,000 “Clickworkers”, ie registered platform users.

“The Clickworkers work independently and flexibly from their own computer. They work through self-contained tasks on a fee basis via a standard web browser user interface. These, in turn, are mostly part of a complex project. The projects are coordinated and brought together using technology from clickworker.com, an internet-based workflow system, ”is how the Essen-based company clickworker.com, which has been in existence since 2006, describes the principle. Platforms such as “Gigwalk” in the USA also place microjobs on the Internet, which you can then apply for by mobile phone or e-mail.

The author teaches sociology with a focus on media theory at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and works as a freelance journalist in Munich. This post is the last in a three-part series. The articles “Flexible working time models are trendy” and “The fixed desk was yesterday” have already appeared.

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