How can Germany can be a leader in the Digital Economy? Rather than copying the Silicon Valley model, how can Germany forge a new “Way of Innovation” that ensures a more tech-driven economy doesn’t further enlarge the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”? Silicon Valley has launched new startup companies and corralled our private data in ways that both amaze and alarm us. But the most profound change of all is coming in how people work. Many businesses today prefer to hire workers who are contractors, freelancers and solo self-employed rather than permanent or full-time, because they want a labor force they can turn on and off like a light bulb – “fired by algorithm.” Many of these companies pay low wages, with no social welfare protections and little future. Some experts view this model as a threat to Germany’s prosperity, which has been based on solidarity and co-determination between the different economic sectors. Germany appears to be only a few years behind the US in experiencing this new type of “job inequality,” in which certain types of jobs are a lot better than others. Could a universal, portable social welfare net that covers all workers, including freelancers, help preserve a broadly shared prosperity in Germany? Could a Guaranteed/Universal Basic Income play that function? Or how about other ideas proposed by government leaders, such as to create more flexibility in the workday for employed people?
Steven Hill is a frequent columnist for Die Zeit and Handelsblatt, and author of the recently published book "Die Startup Illusion: Wie die Internet- Ökonomie unseren Sozialstaat ruiniert" (Droemer Knaur, May 2017). www.Steven-Hill.com and @StevenHill1776
Prof. Dr. Anke Hassel is Professor of Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance and Academic Director of the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI), an independent academic institute within the Hans-Böckler-Foundation. Her research centres on business systems, labour rights and corporate social responsibility. @AnkeHassel
Dr. Max Neufeind is a researcher and adviser on the future of work. He is a policy fellow with the Berlin-based think tank Das Progressive Zentrum and a member of TT30, the young think tank of the Club of Rome. @MaxNeufeind https://youtu.be/ox944_CBsSQ
Anna Alex is the co-founder and CEO of Outfittery, a personal shopping service for men. Anna studied in Freiburg and Paris, and started her career at Rocket Internet in Berlin. She was head of IT at a Swiss online company before she fulfilled her dream of starting Outfittery. @AnnaAlexxx