This presentation begins by summarising changes in employment patterns since the middle of the twentieth century, arguing that the mid 2000s marked the beginning of a fourth distinctive phase, the earlier ones having begun, respectively, after the end of World War II, after the 1973 oil crisis and after the end of the Cold War. In this new phase, dubbed here the ‘Internet Age’, various tendencies with their origins in earlier periods have reached critical mass. These include a developed international division of labour in both manufacturing and services, and an employment landscape dominated by large transnational corporations able to draw on this global labour pool, using ICTs to manage their increasingly elaborate value chains. Many of these corporations have grown on the basis of the commodification of activities which previously lay outside the scope of profit making, including public services, art and culture, and sociality. The presentation will conclude by drawing out the implications of these developments for labour and class in the next epoch of global capitalism.
Ursula Huws is Professor of Labour and Globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire, UK and the editor of the international journal Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation.