Following the advent of the pandemic and the massive installation of telework in the world, we are invited to reflect on a possible acceleration of a reconfiguration of work. It has become clear how a series of tasks, which before the pandemic were carried out in person, could be done perfectly from a distance. In Chile this modality has been incorporated mostly in private sector work, but still far from being constituted as a general rule.
According to authors such as Jeremy Rifki and André Gorz, this process comes from before the pandemic. The world had begun a gradual transition to cognitive capitalism, that is, as Negri proposes, is a system of greater importance in «value to know» than in the «work value» traditionally conceived (measured by working time). An example of this is the growing number of workers producing intangible goods, such as workers in the culture of theatrical, television, musical or film production.
Arguments that are held in the «end of work» thesis. His advocates argue that full employment has already become inaccessible. In the face of this, the idea of universal allocation has emerged, decoupling the income from employment in order to ensure minimum resources for people. On the other hand, they argue that every time human work will be replaced by technology. For «cognitivists» this is good news, as it is a way of overcoming the capitalist exploitation of human beings by other human beings.
In the face of this argument, one might wonder whether technology will ultimately replace human labour and, secondly, whether the health crisis will accelerate such a process. One of the critical voices of the «end of work», Michel Husson, argues that technological development is not a reducer of human employment, since the machines must be designed, assembled and maintained, which involves incorporating human labor. Therefore, it does not mean that there will be less work, but of incorporating new jobs.
In the face of this debate, two possibilities arise, that there is an acceleration of the replacement of operators with new technologies, definitively increasing cognitive work or a massive replacement after the incorporation of new human-dependent jobs (using technology). Faced with either option, an alarm is set, the difficulties of job reintegration into old jobs before the pandemic.
In the face of this possibility, it is necessary to reopen the debate on universal basic income, which comes from a right to a monthly amount that exceeds the poverty line. According to sociologist Ollin Wrigth, this income «is granted unconditionally against the realization of any type of work or any other contribution, and it is universal, that is, it is received all, the rich and the poor alike. Payments are individual and not families.» In turn, this income will result in the elimination of a number of redistributive transfers, such as «social payments, family allowances, unemployment insurance, tax-paid pensions», as basic income will be sufficient to provide everyone with decent subsistence. In turn, universal basic income would lead to the elimination of poverty, the contract of employment would approach a voluntary service, power relations between workers and capitalists become less unequal, increases the possibility of people forming cooperative associations to produce goods and services that meet needs outside the market
In Chile, this debate has been difficult to install, as neoliberals have socialized the idea that social rights generate taxable persons, and therefore that the reception of such «benefits» would generate a mass of laziness. This vision of the human being is taken the extreme through a series of policies that leave people with marginal social protection initiatives. This has led to the explosion of social unrest expressed in the October protests, but above all the discontent that has been caused by the economic crisis during the pandemic.
This has deepened the divorce between politics and society, as it reveals a disconnection of the elites with social political reality. Meanwhile, a number of policies are evident for the benefits of the great entrepreneur, these being, with their monopoly practices, who have closed the doors of success for the large majorities. We are facing a citizen who acts only as an unprotected individual and an emimprisoned that acts in collective, as a group, as a class.
In the face of this reality, initiatives such as universal basic income are urgent to install and debate, as it would not only generate a better distribution of wealth, but would also strengthen unequal power relations between employers and workers.