The United Nations called for urgent international regulations on Tuesday to ensure fair conditions for workers paid through digital platforms such as food delivery apps, a form of employment that surged during the pandemic.
According to a report released by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency, the number of online platforms offering jobs has quintupled over the last decade.
From taxi booking apps to services that connect plumbers and freelance website developers with customers.
And during the pandemic, the surge in unemployment and increased demand for home delivery in countries where restaurants and retail stores were closed accelerated the shift to finding jobs through such platforms.
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19, labor supply on the platform has increased significantly,” the ILO said.
He added that intensifying competition has in some cases forced workers to accept less money per job than before.
Also, in some sectors that rely heavily on online platforms, such as ride hailing, businesses are depressed, making it difficult for drivers to not receive regular salaries.
According to a survey of taxi drivers in Chile, India, Kenya and Mexico, 9 out of 10 people lost their income due to Covid and some had to take out a loan or postpone invoice payments.
“Seven of the ten workers have shown that they cannot take paid sick leave or receive compensation if they test positive for the virus,” the report said.
The report also highlighted some of the benefits of the rise of digital labor platforms for both businesses and workers.
This shift gives businesses access to a large and flexible workforce with a variety of skills, opening up new opportunities for some demographics, including women, people with disabilities and adolescents.
However, these workers have limited protection because they comply with the platform’s Terms of Service. This is often unilaterally determined.
Workers hired through digital platforms often faced restrictions on access to basic worker rights, ILO Executive Director Guy Ryder told journalists.
He added that it included “the right to organize, freedom of association, and the right to collective bargaining.”
Working hours are often long and unpredictable, but workers may have to pay a fee to work on the platform, the report said.
Also, according to ILO economist Uma Rani Amara, some of these working hours are unpaid. For example, the time to drive a car to find a customer in the ride-hailing app.
According to a survey of about 12,000 workers and 85 companies included in the report, the average hourly wage of people working through digital labor platforms worldwide is less than $ 3.40 per hour.
He added that half of online workers earn less than $ 2.10 per hour.
In recent years, there has been increasing pressure on online giants to better protect workers who rely on them to make a living in volatile situations.
Last week, the UK Supreme Court ruled that drivers of the Uber ride-hailing service app Uber are entitled to rights such as minimum wages and paid holidays. This is a judgment that has a great impact on the so-called “gig economy.”
The ILO called for international cooperation to regulate digital labor platforms. He argued that the domestic solution was inadequate because the company operates in multiple jurisdictions.
“The only way to effectively protect workers and businesses is through coherent, collaborative international efforts,” Ryder said.
“Universal labor standards are applicable to everyone and must be applied,” he added, explaining general regulation as “important.”
According to the report, the digital labor platform generated at least $ 52 billion in revenue worldwide in 2019. However, costs and benefits were not evenly distributed around the world.
Approximately 96% of investment in such platforms is concentrated in Asia ($ 56 billion), North America ($ 46 billion) and Europe ($ 12 billion).
And over 70% of the revenue generated was concentrated in two countries, the United States (49%) and China (22%). Europe combined accounted for 11%.
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