Willy Brandt School of Public Policy

Politics and the Future of Work in Middle-Income Countries (PolDigWork). How Hopes and Fears about Digitalization Shape Opinions on Social and Labour Policies

The project looks at the social and political impact of digitalization and automation for labour markets in selected middle-income countries. For three years, a team will employ a mixed methods approach with an original survey component combined with social network analysis as well as case studies from Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia.

10/2022 - 10/2025

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) :
716 027 Euro

Project management

Prof. Dr. Achim Kemmerling
Gerhard Haniel Professor for Public Policy and International Development (Willy Brandt School of Public Policy)
Research Design

The future of work has enormous implications for the politics and (core) policies of welfare states, especially social and labour market policies. New forms of digitalization and automation reshape how society ‘works’. Innovations such as bots and robots change the nature of work and create new types of employment (e.g. gig work) and economic sectors. They also destroy existing jobs, automatizing tasks and making whole branches of the economy redundant. Social and political scientists begin to understand the processes and outcomes of this transformation in advanced industrialized countries. Especially for middle-income countries, however, we still know relatively little about the political consequences of the future of work. Do fears and hopes about digitalization reshape the opinions of citizens and the political elite about social and labour policies? And do they make existing cleavages such as the difference between formal and informal sectors stronger or weaker? Employing mixed methods and a nested case study analysis of Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia, this project will address these questions. The project combines insights from existing surveys with an original survey experiment in the three countries. These findings will then be contrasted with results from a content analysis of social media and with information from expert interviews. With its comparative approach, the project will allow us to understand how digitalization works in societies in which we see differently salient divides. Will digitalization provide new divides, reinforce existing divides or perhaps even mitigate them? The project will therefore contribute to the literature and theories on divides and cleavages in middle-income countries. Such questions and the underlying processes are harder to observe in countries like Germany, where informality is less salient, but still poses an important problem in the face of digitalization. The project will thus create insights even beyond the countries/ regions studied.


Arbeitsmarkt Digitalisierung Zukunft der Arbeit

Research focus

Religion, Society, and World Relations