Previous Inequality, Labor, and Human Rights: The Future of Work in the Age of Pandemic Events

Our Fall 2020 Colloquium, “Inequality, Labor, and Human Rights: The Future of Work in the Age of Pandemic” is part of a new inter-disciplinary and cross-campus Pop-Up Institute, “Beyond the Future of Work: New Paradigms for Addressing Global Inequality,” supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Over the past decade, concerns about the “future of work” have preoccupied scholars, policymakers, NGOS, and international organizations. Many forecast massive job displacement caused by advances in automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and digitization. As formal labor’s share of national income continues to shrink around the world, informal employment, underemployment, and non-waged work increasingly characterize the lives of many. Silicon Valley tycoons, Marxist critics, far-right populists, and even a long-shot U.S. presidential candidate have all predicted the end of work as we know it. Soaring rates of unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic confirm even the gloomiest prognoses, albeit for different reasons than anticipated.

Our Fall 2020 Colloquium presented an interdisciplinary group of scholars who explored these and other prognoses of the future of work as well as proposals for responding to them, in light of deeply entrenched inequality within and across countries.

  1. Speaker:
    • Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Founding Director of the Center for Latinx and Latin American Studies, University of Southern California
    Respondent: Sharmila Rudrappa, Professor of Sociology, Director of the South Asia Institute, University of Texas at Austin
  2. Speaker:
    • Professor of Law, Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labor Law and Development, McGill University
    Respondent: Bedour Alagraa, Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin
  3. Speaker:
    Respondent: Erik Encarnacion, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Texas at Austin
  4. Speaker:
    • Postdoctoral Researcher, Humboldt University, Berlin
    Respondent: Ann Huff Stevens, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, David Bruton Jr. Regents Chair in Liberal Arts in the Department of Economics, UT Austin