Automation, gigs, and other labor market tales: the Philippines in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Emmanuel F. Esguerra


The paper discusses two topics that frequently surface in conversations about the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR): the threat of labor displacement due to automation and the growth of alternative employment arrangements. Using the “task approach” to review recent research on the “future of work” in the Philippines, the paper argues that predictions not informed by the task intensity of jobs are less compelling. The “job polarization” thesis is also examined and the observation made that changes in the occupational distribution of employment seem to be more closely associated with a structural transformation explanation. In the second part, the “gig economy” is discussed in the broader context of work arrangements that have emerged and disrupted the standard employment relationship. The limitations of household-based labor force surveys as a source of data on gig activity are noted. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of 4IR challenges in terms of human resource development, unemployment protection, and the reform of labor laws. 

JEL codes: J20, J24, J41, J48, J88, K31, O33


technology, tasks, gig economy, non-standard work

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