Conference on “Digitalization and Labor Rights”
Event: Social Justice and Trade Unions
Digitalization has had a strong impact on German and Chinese societies. It has facilitated communication, advanced global integration and created whole new and innovative business branches. However on the flipside of this development, digitalization also changed traditional labor relations and created new work conditions based on flexibility and constant availability. Confronted with these social challenges, the FES Beijing Representative Office, in cooperation with the China University of Political Science and Law, organized this year’s conference on “Digitalization and Labor Rights – Challenges to Labor Law by new Work Relations in a Digital Era”. FES invited three German experts to participate in the conference: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Däubler (professor emeritus in labor, civil and industrial law, Bremen University), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schroeder (professor in political sciences, Kassel University), and Uwe Stoffregen (attaché for labor and social issues, German Embassy Beijing).
In the forerun of the conference, Prof. Däubler gave a lecture with following Q&A session at China University of Political Science and Law. The lecture was titled “Challenges to Law by Digitalization.” In front of around 150 students and professors, the German expert discussed experiences and future outlooks on how different juridical sub-disciplines deal with digitalization in Germany. Prof. Däubler comprehensively touched upon different law branches such as labor law, civil law, criminal law and industrial law to evaluate the possibilities and threats that digitalization may bring to the respective sectors. During the following Q&A session, students had the possibility to engage in an open debate with Prof. Däubler and other experts.
The conference on “Digitalization and Labor Law” was held on Saturday, the 25th of November. Apart from the German experts, the Chinese side invited representatives from politics, academia as well as the IT business. All the parties agreed upon the fact that digitalization has shifted traditional notions on employee-employer relationships. There was an animated debate on whether internet platforms such as Meituan, Didi etc. need to be given the same social responsibilities as traditional employers or not. Other debated topics were how constant availability changes traditional conceptions of working hours and how labor law should adapt to these new realities.
After a whole day of exchange and debate, the experts concluded that new juridical approaches have to be developed to deal with new social phenomena produced by digitalization. The congress on “Digitalization and Labor Law” offered a suitable platform to share experience, compare approaches and give new incentives for future attempts to harmonize the law with these challenges. Since this is a topic that both China and Germany are experiencing, the congress provided a framework under which future exchange can be further developed.