COVID-19’s Impact Upon Labor and Value Chains in the Agrifood Industry: A case study

Kenney, Martin
Visser, M. Anne
Padilla, Mariah
ISSN der Zeitschrift
Weizenbaum Institute

We explore the impact of automation and digitalization on labor in the US agrifood system during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study considers each of the primary nodes in the system stretching from consumer through grocery stores and restaurants to last-mile delivery, distribution, food processing, farming, and agri-inputs. Not only automation and digitalization, but also the role of platforms such as Amazon, and food delivery firms such as GrubHub, Instacart, and Uber Eats are discussed. For restaurants, we consider not only dine-in restaurants, but also “ghost kitchens”. Furthermore, the possibility that farmers or distributors could disintermediate other nodes and deal directly with consumers is discussed. We conclude that, as a generalization, the further upstream one goes from the consumer, the less immediate and disruptive automation is likely to be for labor. However, our overall conclusion is that, given the current trajectories, labor is becoming increasingly precarious. If the current labor shortages continue, then automation is likely to accelerate. Platformization, while rampant in the relationships with final consumers, is likely to be less rapidly adopted further upstream where relationships are B-to-B and thus composed of actors that are wary of sharing data.

Sociology & anthropology \ Economics \ Economic Sectors \ Sociology of Work, Industrial Sociology, Industrial Relations \ Labor Market Research \ agricultural production \ food \ automation \ online service \ digitalization \ working conditions \ supply \ direct marketing \ retail trade \ United States of America \ electronic business \ Wirtschaft \ Soziologie, Anthropologie \ COVID-19 \ Coronavirus pandemic \ Plattformökonomie \ Agrifood Systems \ Labor \ Work Process \ Industrie- und Betriebssoziologie, Arbeitssoziologie, industrielle Beziehungen \ Arbeitsmarktforschung \ Wirtschaftssektoren \ Versorgung \ Digitalisierung \ Agrarproduktion \ Electronic Business \ Nahrungsmittel \ Einzelhandel \ USA \ Online-Dienst \ Automatisierung \ Arbeitsbedingungen \ Direktmarketing
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Verwandte Ressource
Kenney, M., Visser, M. A., & Padilla, M. (2022). COVID-19’s Impact Upon Labor and Value Chains in the Agrifood Industry: A case study (Weizenbaum Series 23).