If used correctly, crowdsourcing can improve labour, not devaluing it
Jun 29, 2012
Decentralization of work and cost-cutting in crowdsourcing raise concerns about labor devaluation and the need for a new social contract to address wealth redistribution and resource consumption.
There is no argument in the world more convincing, more powerful, more magnetic than mentioning to the owner of the capital the possibility of having "lower costs". Activities in crowdsourcing can have dozens of advantages and versatility, but it is cost cutting that shines in the eyes of entrepreneurs and investors. This price is usually paid by the provider of this labor (at least in the case of using crowdsourcing as a replacement for the workforce). The decentralization of job supply is a process much older than the modern crowdsourcing, certainly, but it is one of the fiercest arguments against the spread of work collaboration. The question that arises is: is there a way to adopt crowdsourcing practices without a decrease in the value paid to workers?
Not surprisingly, the answer is complex. Many companies that adopt workforce divided into crowdsourcing exploit a vein that is capturing the idle time of workers from other activities (for example, a student with free hours, or a housewife, or even a heavy user of Internet who doesn't mind spending time looking for Jai Alai videos on the web). However, there are also industries that take the opportunity to seek labor in less developed countries to achieve cost cuts close to 70%. Even though it can be argued that the values paid to workers in poor countries are a form of wealth redistribution to less developed societies, the "smell" of wage squeeze remains.
Besides being easier to find workers willing to receive less in poorer countries, there is another important factor. Employers tend to see remote work as "easier". The attachment of most companies to the physical presence of employees is a bit irrational, even though it is explainable. The presence of employees in the company is a strong culture, of almost three centuries, that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when workers could only generate profit if they were physically close to machinery. Digitization not only revolutionized the framework, but basically dismantled it. Large portions of the workforce could do all their work from home, saving hundreds of billions of dollars in transportation, energy, equipment investment, and the like. The employer usually sees the employee's stay at home as an advantage for them (the employee), not the company, when in fact it is a bilateral gain. With causes or not, the point is that the same work is being worse paid in most cases, and this is a problem (even if this problem goes far beyond the spread of crowdsourcing).
Where do the hopes lie for this devaluation to be less pronounced? First, at some point in the future, there must start to be legislation in countries to regulate this flow of capital and this in some way tends to curb the impetus of those who only want cheaper labor; second, more efficient tools for task management should make the relationship smoother, with each task taking less time; third, the tasks requested through the system tend to become more sophisticated as each of the work providers proves more reliable, and this sophistication also tends to yield better payments. Anyway, even so, the extreme globalization that crowdsourcing can bring to capitalism still represents - at least in terms of wages - an extra weight in the imbalance of relations.
In any case, this decentralization of work is inevitable just like the process of industrial migration that came after globalization. So, it's not about wanting or not, but about needing to find solutions. This decentralization is extremely necessary, especially in megalopolises like São Paulo (imagine if, for example, 30% of the people flow in the city stopped happening without the necessary displacements for people to go to the offices). Creating free time for people (as suggested by Domenico De Masi) and cutting costs for companies are benefits that crowdsourcing can bring. Containing the fall of the value of work does not yet have an obvious answer. This answer can only come with a new social contract, necessary to discuss the redistribution of wealth, reduction of natural resources consumption, which will be celebrated for good or by force, since the current pace of use of natural resources should lead humanity to the risk of extinction sooner than one imagines. This reduction in the consumption of resources can also be helped by crowdsourcing. May one thing lead to another, then.