Digital labour platforms have increased fivefold around the world over the past decade, said International Labor Organization (ILO) report. But the costs and benefits of digital platforms are not shared equally around the world, the report adds.
The report entitled “Global Employment and Social Outlook for 2021,” said 96% of investments in digital labour platforms are concentrated in Asia, North America and Europe.
Around 70% of revenues are concentrated in only two countries, namely the United States and China.
The report notes that this uneven growth perpetuates the digital divide and risks exacerbating inequality.
Digital labour platforms Fivefold increase
The report explores the way contemporary platform economy is changing the world of work, and provides an analysis of the impact of digital work platforms on companies, workers and society at large.
ILO report said digital labour platforms can be classified into two broad categories: online web-based and location-based platforms. On online web-based platforms, tasks or work assignments are performed online or remotely by workers.
“The tasks on location-based platforms are carried out in person in specified physical locations by workers, and include taxi, delivery and home services.”
The report said this rapid digital economy growth presents both opportunities and challenges for workers and firms and requires a coherent policy response.
This growth underscores the need for international policy dialogue and regulatory cooperation in order to create decent work opportunities and foster sustainable business growth in a more coherent manner.
“Digital labour platforms are opening up opportunities that did not exist before, particularly for women, young people, persons with disabilities and marginalized groups in all parts of the world. That must be welcomed,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.
“The new challenges they present can be met through global social dialogue so that workers, employers and governments can fully and equally benefit from these advances.”
“All workers, regardless of employment status, need to be able to exercise their fundamental rights at work.”
Challenges digital platform workers face relate to working conditions, income, lack of access to social protection, freedom of association, and wage negotiation rights.
The hours are often long and unpredictable. Half of the workers in Digital labour platforms earn less than $2 an hour. Additionally, some platforms have large pay gaps between genders.
The report adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed many of these problems.
Many companies face challenges related to unfair competition, lack of transparency regarding data, pricing and high commission fees. Small and medium-sized companies are also facing difficulties in accessing finance and digital infrastructure.
A call for a global social dialogue
The report calls for a global social dialogue and organizational cooperation between Digital labour platforms, workers and governments. This could lead over time to a more effective and consistent approach, in order to properly classify the employment status of workers across digital platforms.
Global social dialogue might also grant workers the right to negotiate, and to obtain social security benefits by expanding and adapting policies and legal frameworks as necessary.
The results of the report are based on surveys and interviews with about 12,000 workers and representatives of 85 companies around the world in various sectors.