Tilly Co-Authors New Report on Future of Retail

New technologies in the retail sector are likely to mean more monitoring and coercion of workers, and a stronger advantage for large companies like Walmart and Amazon, according to a new report co-authored by Chris Tilly, professor and chair of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. E-commerce has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but stores have still remained an important way of selling goods, according to Tilly and co-author Françoise Carré, research director of the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “During the peak of the lockdowns, 70% of people in the U.S. were still buying groceries in stores,” Tilly said. “And for those that order groceries online, a worker collects their goods from the store and makes them available for curbside pickup or delivery. This shows how technology is in many cases changing workers’ jobs rather than eliminating them.” In addition to changing the mix of tasks that workers are expected to carry out, employers are likely to deploy new technologies in ways that increase the monitoring and surveillance of retail workers. “We have been hearing about e-commerce wiping out retail stores and jobs, but our two years of research tell a very different story,” Carré said.  The report is part of a broader multi-industry research project led by the UC Berkeley Labor Center and Working Partnerships USA that examines the impact of new technologies on work. The project is supported by the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.

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