Hi all, I am watching this discussion unfold with interest. It is an area that interests me specifically when related to teaching but I think it is possibly the most significant economic discussion of our age. I hope you don’t mind me opening it out further.

Across the world we are seeing the “austerity” agenda being used as a way of pushing costs away from organisations and towards individuals. This is a convenient way for organisations to reduce their financial responsibilities to their employees and ultimately dis-aggregate labour – paying the lowest price for the time on the job without a care for “hidden costs” such as transport, clothing, childcare etc. In the UK this case https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/09/sports-direct-warehouse-work-conditions highlighted the lack of respect for employees as human beings that can result from a focus solely on organisational profit. The business models we have seen arising in the digital have been no less worrying – minimising social responsibilities through tax avoidance whist squeezing the employee beyond what is reasonable https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/01/week-amazon-insider-feature-treatment-employees-work

Digital domains are not without cost, they have to be maintained. If we are economically active we make choices about how we spend our limited assets whilst maintaining our responsibilities to those we support. The costs are not hidden in our bank balance, what I spend on a website I can’t send elsewhere. Maha is right that those who are the most vulnerable financially for whatever reason need support. Let’s face it any of us could be in that situation at a point in our lives perhaps through illness, loss of work or study (which is an increasingly expensive life decision). I would say – buyer beware! Use services which you trust, ensure that all your content remains yours and can be removed/exported elsewhere when you wish to do so. Don’t tolerate lock-in from any technical “solutions provider”.

In a teaching context, the UK has a system for reclaiming tax relief on professional expenditure: https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/professional-fees-and-subscriptions I have never used it, it is too complicated and out of touch with the reality of teaching today, probably deliberately. Just scanning down the list of approved professional associations and learned societies they seem to favour those already on good incomes (doctors/lawyers) I see nothing that reflects the reality of costs incurred as part of my professional activity. Indeed teaching has been subject to increasing de-professionalisation by successive governments in the UK.

We need an international debate on the nature of employment and the social responsibilities attached to it. Ownership is part of that – does your employer own you?