From the e-commerce site Taobao.com to the social media app WeChat, China has drawn global attention to its digital platform economy. A third of the top-200 digital platforms were born in China according to the Global Platform Survey 2016. They are also growing fast. A 2017 report published by Ali Research shows that the digital platform sector contributes to 10.5% of China’s GDP.
World Development Report 2019
We have been living with digital platforms for about a decade now and their impact on changing how we work is beginning to make itself felt. Even so, it merits much greater attention and investigation, but until now the spotlight has been trained firmly on robots and automation.
Tax avoidance by the world’s wealthiest people and largest companies is widespread. The excuse is that such avoidance is legal. Rich individuals and corporations look for jurisdictions that have low or no tax on personal or corporate income, on dividends, on capital or R&D expenditure. They base their business activities there, at least for the purposes of taxation.
It is widely accepted that corporate tax avoidance is commonplace, but experts disagree over the precise amount of tax that corporations successfully avoid. One estimate for 2012 suggests that 50 percent of all foreign income of multinationals is reported in jurisdictions with an effective tax rate below 5 percent; another suggests it’s more like 40 percent. The OECD estimates that governments worldwide are missing out on anything between four and ten percent of global corporate income tax revenue every year, or US$100–$240 billion. While the accounting varies, one fact is clear: there is an unacceptable level of corporate tax avoidance, no matter how you do the math.
Your neighbor drives for a ride-sharing company. Your nephew just joined his third start-up. Your daughter lands a job as a freelance journalist. Your street vendor who sells flowers down the street has been absent due to an illness.
The changing nature of work is upending traditional employment. But as the gig economy, part-time jobs, contracts and other diverse and fluid forms of employment grow, what happens to the protections the traditional job market offered to people and workers?
It’s not so long since the days when speaking of ‘universal health coverage’ used to provoke shockwaves. Happily, the principle that “… everyone having access to the health care they need without suffering financial hardship” is now widely recognized and documented. And although few countries have achieved this goal in practice, it is clearly within reach, including in low-income countries like Rwanda.
In 1997, Garry Kasparov, one of the greatest chess players in history, lost a chess match to a supercomputer called Deep Blue. Some years later Kasparov developed “advanced chess,” where a human and a computer team up to play against another human and computer. This mutation of chess is mutually beneficial: the human player has access to the computer’s ability to calculate moves, while the computer benefits from human intuition.
Our starting point is to deal with what we know – and the biggest challenge that the future of work faces – and has faced for decades – is the vast numbers of people who live day to day on casual labor, not knowing from one week to the next if they will have a job and unable to plan ahead, let alone months rather than years, for their children’s prosperity. We call this the informal economy – and as with so much pseudo-technical language which erects barriers, the phrase fails to convey the abject state of purgatory to which it condemns millions of workers and their families around the world.