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Call for Research Proposals: Digitization and the Future of Work in the Global South (Future of Work in the Global South, FoWiGS))

Deadline: 15 December 2018.

Call for Research Proposals: Digitization and the Future of Work in the Global South (Future of Work in the Global South, FoWiGS))

As part of the Future of Work in the Global South (FoWiGS) initiative, Centro Latam Digital and International Development Research Centre (IDRC) are launching a call for research proposals that seeks to advance our understanding about the implications of digitization and labor automation for countries in the Global South.

Digitization and networked communications are increasingly touching all aspects of modern life. Among them is employment, a key organizing principle for society since the industrial revolution. A number of forces are currently reshaping traditional employment, and more generally how labor markets operate.

First, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in combination with modern robotics are threatening to automatize jobs that were previously considered too complex for non-human execution. Examples range from driverless vehicles to automated customer relations that are displacing specialized labor in transportation, sales, logistics and several other components along the value chain.

Second, the emergence of digital work platforms is reshaping labor relations on a global scale, facilitating the unbundling of work into smaller tasks that employers can contract out to freelance workers around the world.

Third, cloud computing and over-the-top (OTT) services are disrupting business models across a range of industries, favoring job relocation to a small number of technology-intensive regions.

This call for research proposals seeks to advance our understanding about the implications of these changes in the nature of work for developing countries in the Global South, their growth trajectories and the broader goal of equitable development and gender inclusion. In particular, it seeks to address the following questions:

  • To what extent are jobs in developing countries susceptible to automation or relocation as a result of AI and new communication technologies? Are there fundamental differences with similar trends in advanced countries? What are the key data gaps that need to be filled to better understand these trends?
  • How can workers in developing countries develop the necessary skills to benefit from these transformations? Are there examples of successful initiatives that increase employability? What changes are required to school curricula or existing job training programs?
  • How are these changes likely to impact populations with inferior outcomes in traditional labor markets, such as women, ethnic minorities and the youth? Can these trends be oriented to mitigate discrimination and create more inclusive labor markets?
  • How are workers and small entrepreneurs in affected industries responding to these changes? What role are established institutions (such as labor unions and job training centers) playing?
  • How are governments responding to these changes? Are there examples of successful initiatives in key areas such as education reform, labor rights and social protection programs? Are there examples of initiatives that help preserve rights or smooth the transition for displaced
    workers? Are there examples from low and middle-income countries specifically targeted at gig workers?
  • How does the gig economy operate in countries with high levels of poverty and labor informality? Are informal workers and small-scale entrepreneurs reaping benefits from these changes, or are they exacerbating precarious labor conditions?
  • How are these changes affecting the patterns of geographic clusterization and regional job displacement in poor and middle-income countries? Are there successful cases of economic and urban renewal in areas affected by these trends? Are there any successful policy responses at
    the local, state and federal levels that promote new models of articulation with modern and, in particular, global value chains?

The call welcomes research proposals from a variety of disciplines and methodological perspectives. This includes (but is not limited to) impact evaluation research, surveys, ethnographic studies, action research, field experiments, and policy analysis. Proposals that include a comparative
perspective across two or more countries are encouraged. Proposals should address issues of gender equality, youth employment or social inclusion for minority populations.

Researchers are encouraged to identify the practical implications of their research findings. This includes drawing policy recommendations and implications for development-oriented initiatives.


  • Applications can be submitted in English, French or Spanish.
  • Research consortia comprised of multiple partners may apply; however, one partner must be designated as the lead institution and recipient of funds. This institution should submit the application on behalf of the consortium.
  • Research proposals must be led by scholars based in the Global South. Researchers based in advanced countries may participate as partners.
  • Quality and composition of the research team will be an important evaluation criterion in the selection of proposals. We encourage teams with at least one researcher with expertise in gender-based analysis, as well as teams with a capacity-building component through the participation of
    young scholars
  • Research projects are to be undertaken/led by a research-oriented institution with legal entity based in the Global South. Applications from individual persons will not be accepted. United Nations, donor, and multilateral organizations are not eligible to apply.

Research projects up to CAD 100,000 (Canadian dollars) will be considered. The proposed budget should be strictly related to the project needs and should reflect the necessary resources for the collection of data or any other method of data acquisition and management. The selection committee reserves the right to propose adjustments to the budget depending on the availability of resources. Research projects will typically span over 12 months, including all research activities and final reporting. Exceptions for longer projects (up to 18 months) will be considered on a case-by-case basis and need to be clearly justified in terms of methodology and research questions.

Applications should be submitted to in Word or pdf format. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Please indicate “FoWiGS Call for Projects” in the subject line. For information or questions about this call, please contact

Global coordination: Centro Latam Digital; Funding partner:

Deadline: 15 December 2018


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