The Rise of New Work Practices and Its Impact on Regional Disparities

Whether digitalization will generally increase or decrease current inter-regional economic disparities remains an open question ("geography/distance is dead" vs. "mountains in the flat world"). However, recent digital innovations in work practices related to the pandemic might substantially reduce the value of spatial proximity. In particular, the widespread use of working from home as a substitute for on-site work that is likely to persist after the pandemic may reduce regional disparities if this (1) induces urban-rural migration in response to reduced commuting needs and the general attractiveness of rural areas (e.g. low cost, low crime), and (2) reduces the rural-urban wage gap due to easier access to urban labour markets and a reduced monopsony power of employers in rural regions with thin labour markets. However, potential benefits and gains are unlikely to be equally distributed across different groups of workers as well as across regions as not all jobs are teleworkable and not all regions are within a critical urban range for providing a minimum of on-site working hours.

There is a long-standing tradition in the study of regional inequality, also in terms of presentations and sessions at the previous five GCEGs. However, the relationship between regional inequality, digitalization, work practices and employees' tasks (of highly-skilled in particular) and their mobility have largely been ignored. This session seeks to address scholars working in the fields of regional inequality, of the spatial implications of digitalization, teleworkability, and of the mobility of the highly-skilled. We are looking for theoretical, empirical and/or policy papers that address the complex relationship between the three spatially-sensitive phenomena named above.