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Episode 380
Mar 2, 2021

People, at scale

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We talk with a producer from "The Uncertain Hour," which is spending this season looking at the changing nature of employment.

If current labor trends hold, the company of the future won’t have any employees outside of the C-suite.

That’s the focus of our documentary podcast “The Uncertain Hour.” This season is about jobs and how the idea of “employment” as we once knew it is disappearing.

“There’s been this kind of seismic shift in how we’re thinking about workers,” Marketplace producer Peter Balonon-Rosen said. “Companies are looking at the people who provide labor for them as another commodity that they can go out and buy at scale. Like you might think about office supplies, like pens.”

That’s given rise to staffing agencies, more independent contractor jobs and, of course, gig work. Before the pandemic, more than a quarter of the world’s largest employers dealt in “people at scale,” renting out workers to other companies.

But what made corporations fall out of love with their employees in the first place? It’s in part an unintended consequence of just one academic paper from 30 years ago. On today’s show, Balonon Rosen tells us all about it.

Later in the show, we’ll talk about “infrastructure week.” Remember those? Plus, we hear from a listener who’s administering COVID-19 vaccines, and another who’s reckoning with the massive death toll the disease has wrought.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week we’ve got Velveeta, pork-barrel spending and Oreos. Yum. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

Here are links to everything we talked about on the show today:

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Donna Tam Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer