Updates

Labour law

2017

Billions are now online, but the digital gender divide persists in several ways. Women in developing countries still face difficulties in obtaining access. The number of women using the Internet is 12 percent lower than men, and in least developed countries, only one in seven women is online (compared to one in five men). Detailed statistics are available in the ITU's report  ICT Facts and Figures 2017.  On the job front, in the USA, for example, Internet access is widely available, but technical career conditions are not generally favourable for women. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the largest global meeting of women technologists will discuss this issue in October. 

Google is being sued for gender discrimination in its employee practices, over pay discrimination and channeling of women into lower paying job tracks. Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said that 'Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions.' The current lawsuit, however, 'alleges that Google segregates women into lower paying jobs that curb progression, while men with equivalent qualifications face no such hurdles'. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor 'found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce', although Google disputes this contentionAccording to Google's VP of People Operations,  'Google’s updated workforce representation data shows that overall women make up 31 percent of our employees. In the past three years, women in tech roles have grown from 17 percent to 20 percent (from 19 percent to 20 percent over the last year) and women in leadership roles have grown from 21 percent to 25 percent (from 24 percent to 25 percent over the last year.'

A study published by the US Economics and Statistics Administration explored the employment impact of autonomous vehicles, and concluded that such vehicles are expected to have a potentially profound impact on labour demand. While workers in motor vehicle operator jobs might have difficulty finding alternative employment, other on-the-job drivers (who use vehicles to deliver services or travel to work sites, for example) have a more diversified set of work activities, knowledge and skills, and are likely to be able to adapt to the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. They may also be more likely to benefit from greater productivity and better working conditions offered by autonomous vehicles. The study also notes that the extent to which autonomous vehicles could eliminate certain occupations, resulting in job loss, while changing the mix of tasks involved in other occupations, is still not clear.

South Korea has announced the world's first ever robot tax, reducing tax benefits in the automation industry, as a result of concerns for mass unemployment with the increased automation of industries. According to newspapers, the move aims to make up for lost taxes, as workers will gradually be replaced by machines. The tax is meant to provide resources for welfare plans ahead of expected spikes in unemployment. Earlier tax deduction benefits for investments in automation will be reduced. The robotics industry has criticised the decision, claiming it would impede innovation. 

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in South Africa (an independent arbitration body) ruled that Uber drivers are subject to Uber’s control, and, as such, employees. The decision came in favour of a group of drivers who were fired by Uber by deactivating them from the Uber application without reason. According to the Commission, although drivers can choose their working hours, and decide whether to accept, decline, or ignore a request for a ride, Uber controls the manner in which they work, by setting ‘clear standards and performance requirements’. Uber announced it would challenge the decision in the Labour Court.

An administrative law judge for New York State Labor Department has ruled that three former Uber drivers and ‘others similarly situated’ were eligible for unemployment benefits. Although Uber considers its drivers to be self-employed, the judge has reasoned that ‘Uber exercised sufficient supervision, direction, and control over key aspects of the services rendered by claimants such that an employer-employee relationship was created’. One issues that remains unclear in the ruling is the meaning of the term ‘similarly situated’.

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