Strengthening labor protections for 21st century workers

We wrote a piece for the Global Solutions journal that proposes a framework to establish platform responsiblities towards gig workers.

The International Labour Organization’s latest World Employment and Social Outlook for 2020 paints a bleak picture of the future of work. Unemployment is projected to rise in the next two years and income inequality is higher than expected. Labor markets are inherently unequal, unable to provide decent work for enough people. 188 million people want work but can’t find it; 120 million people have given up searching or can't find work yet and 165 million don't have enough work. In other words, nearly half a billion people are underutilized.(1)

In this context, governments and people are looking to digital platforms to create new employment opportunities. Digital platforms are restructuring the world of work, as they connect and aggregate the supply and demand of work, within and across geographical contexts.

Are platforms the future of work we want? How can we enable labor protection in the changing world of work? What should the priorities for G20 countries be?

It is important to note at the outset that labor market conditions differ hugely across the G20 and policy frameworks will need to be adapted to country contexts.

While much of the dominant narrative emphasizes values of entrepreneurship and innovation, the impacts are likely to differ across labor markets and across social groups. In industrialized economies for example, digital platforms are disrupting traditional employment relationships.

In contrast, in many parts of the Global South, gig work within the informal sectors of the economy is already the norm. For high-skill labor, digital platforms may offer opportunities for flexible work, but for low-skill labor, platforms can create new forms of precarity and dependence.

Policy prescriptions will need to be tailored to suit these varied contexts and needs.

(1) International Labour Organization. (2020). World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2020. Geneva.

Download to read the full article.

Originally published in Global Solutions Journal Issue 5

Authors

Urvashi Aneja

Urvashi Aneja is Founding Director of Tandem Research. She works on the governance and sociology of emerging technology; southern partnerships for humanitarian and development assistance; and the power and politics of global civil society. Urvashi is also Associate Fellow at Chatham House and a columnist for the Indian Express. She has a PhD from the Department of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford. Previously, she was Associate Professor of International Relations at the OP Jindal Global University and Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.

Zothan Mawii

Zothan Mawii is Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work focuses on the impact of digital technologies on labour markets in the global south and the intersection between gender and emerging technologies. She has been studying the impact of digital labour platforms in emerging economies, conducting extensive field work in India, South Africa, and Myanmar. Key to her research are questions around changing employment relations and the nature of work, worker well-being, and worker rights in technology mediated work. Her research interests include digital labour, online social movements, the care economy, feminist perspectives on technology, and internet rights. She has previously worked on issues around internet shutdowns and online violence against women. She holds a MA in Digital Culture and Society from King's College London and a BA (Hons) in English from St. Stephen's College, DU.