The Future of Work and Employment
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The Future of Work and Employment

Edited by Adrian Wilkinson and Michael Barry

This cutting-edge book charts the latest ideas and concepts in employment relations research. Mapping out the intellectual boundaries of the field, The Future of Work and Employment outlines the key research and policy outcomes for work and employment in the age of digitisation and artificial intelligence.
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Chapter 2: Work ‘or’ employment in the 21st century: its impact on the employment relationship

Chris Brewster and Peter Holland


At the start of the fourth industrial revolution, clear signs are emerging as to how outsourcing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the ‘gig’ economy are creating and will create major change in the workplace, with the potential to drive this change deep into highly skilled white-collar jobs in advanced market economies. This is a situation people undertaking these roles and careers never contemplated. These pervading themes hide a significant change – such work is bringing in the fragmentation of the employment relationship and associated aspects of employee well-being and voice. As such, we suggest that the fourth industrial revolution is different from that of previous technological revolutions, and we discuss the implications for those of us who study work and employment. We argue that there are the options to take the high road or a low road to the management of technology, employment and work, and we provide a framework to contribute to this debate.

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