Systematic Evaluation of Platform Work Against Decent Work Standards: Development of a New Framework and Application in the Global South

Richard Heeks, Mark Graham, Paul Mungai, Jean-Paul Van Belle & Jamie Woodcock


Platform work, also known as gig work, is a fast-growing trend, estimated to involve up to 40 million workers in the global South. Celebrated in some quarters, growth of the gig economy has also been a cause for concern about the nature of jobs being created. Yet, while it is the focus for a growing body of research, there has been a lack of systematic frameworks to evaluate this type of labour against decent work standards.

This paper reports on the development of such a framework, based on five principles of fair pay, conditions, contracts, management and representation. Following its development, the framework was applied via worker interviews to 11 digital labour platforms in South Africa covering ride-hailing, delivery, domestic and digital work. It finds positive evidence around pay, safety interventions, communication and worker interaction for some workers and platforms. But the framework also exposes workers paid less than minimum wage and working very long hours, incorrect employment classification, and absence of collective representation.

Alongside its analytical value for understanding emergence of the gig economy, the framework can also be used in practice to inform platform eco-system stakeholders as a basis for improvements in worker pay and conditions.

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