We are just two months into 2023 and a lot has already happened in the world of work. The wave of layoffs that started in 2022 has continued well into the New Year. The website layoffs.fyi put together by San Francisco based entrepreneur Roger Lee, estimates that the number of layoffs just in January, 2023 has been more than any month during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, 68,502 employees were laid off in 229 tech companies.
CEOs of major tech companies have apologised and taken responsibility for ‘misreading the market’. Most of them follow the same template: “The tailwinds of the pandemic induced growth in the sector and we went on a hiring spree to keep up with the massive growth. In hindsight, we didn’t have enough information to make the long term decisions we did and I take responsibility for that. Growth has now slowed down and we need to let you go.” The sincerity of these statements is something we can’t objectively verify but this LA times article outlines how employees are more vocal these days about unfair treatment. The article opines that when recovery knocks around, these CEOs might need to hire the same people they fired due to the tight labour market in the industry. Therefore, their statements might just be due to self-interest and not because of a surge in empathetic management.
Though most people who have been laid off seem to find a job within 3 months, some have chosen to work independently and take up gig-contracts. While the gig-economy can be a force for more flexibility and good, many countries do not have the provisions to protect gig-workers like they do other employees. Though gig-worker unions (eg: delivery driver associations’ in the Philippines) are coming up, they don’t have much legal protection as they are classified as ‘independent contractors’ in many countries. With a lot of companies looking to outsource particular jobs to gig workers than hire a full or even a part-time employee, attention must be paid to fairness and equity, as existing biases can manifest more in the mostly unregulated gig-economy than the traditional set up.
In some positive news, Gartner’s Future of Work Trends forecasts that as more companies are using AI to hire, concerns of algorithmic biases are at the forefront and more will be done to address it. But they also predict that using emerging technologies to increase productivity in the workplace could violate boundaries and lead to a privacy crisis. That is something that companies need to keep in mind. In the next article, we explore what happens when AI is thrown into the mix in this ever changing work ecosystem? Does AI have anything to do with the lay offs? Is AI really going to replace you?
By: Gayathri Arvind
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