Automation and working time: How to reward digital labour
The time we spend online is political. We may not think it so, but our engagement with the digital world is increasingly resembling a product that is stored, studied and sold. Our digital presences make up a mass that has come to be so valuable it is forcing entire political and economic structures to rewrite themselves. At the root of these changes are the major digital platform companies.
Our extraordinary generosity needs to be set against the profitability of the work we do for the platform giants. Alphabet and Facebook alone reported £9 billion in UK sales in 2017, revenues on which they paid a total of £65 million in tax. Our first proposal, therefore, is to treat digital companies, for tax purposes, in the same way as conventional ones.
Secondly, we seek to make an explicit connection between a reduced working week and our collective digital labour. By reframing the time we spend online as labour, we intend to overcome the conceptual and cultural resistance to a 30-hour week. In simple terms, the working week would not be reduced, but merely altered to account for unrecognised labour, which would be rewarded to the benefit of millions of UK citizens.