The development of information and communication technology through Internet since the early 2000s has led to the diffusion of digital innovations and rise of digital platforms. These innovations are leading to the proliferation of digital platforms in several sectors of the economy and transforming the world of work. As the recent report from ILO shows digital platforms in selected sectors (online web-based, taxi and delivery) have increased fivefold over the past decade (ILO 2021).
The ILO has been conducting research over the past few years to understand the digital transformations in the world of work. As part of this research, it has conducted a number of surveys of workers on digital labour platforms between 2015 and 2020 and also interviews with platform companies and varied types of businesses, and has produced a number of publications. The ILO in its recent publication the World Employment and Social Outlook 2021: The role of digital labour platforms in transforming the world of work provides a comprehensive international overview of the platform business model and business strategies, based on an analysis of the terms of service agreements of major online web-based and location-based platforms. It also provides the opportunities and challenges faced by workers on digital labour platforms based on a survey of 12,000 workers in 100 countries. In addition, it explores regulatory gaps with regard to platform governance, and reviews multiple initiatives undertaken by governments and social partners to bridge these gaps.
Research undertaken by the ILO and academic researchers so far indicates that the experiences of workers engaged on digital labour platforms are diverse and country-specific. While there are some income and employment generation opportunities and flexibility to workers especially migrants, women, persons with disabilities, among others, it can also at the same time raise challenges. These include low pay or remuneration, irregularity of work, long and asocial working hours to access sufficient work, lack of access to social protection, among others. As digital platforms play an important role for economic growth, innovation, and job creation, many countries have started to invest in digital infrastructure.
Some countries have taken steps to improve working conditions issues on digital labour platforms based on litigation cases brought to the courts or through collective bargaining agreements, though the responses have varied from country to country. The approaches to extend labour protections to platform workers have varied and include: classification of workers as employees or self-employed or as an intermediate category based on control and autonomy; setting working time and remuneration standards; extending social security; providing occupational safety and health; providing dispute resolution mechanisms or regulating access to data and privacy. The ILO Centenary Declaration (2019) for the future of work also calls for policies and measures “…to respond to challenges and opportunities in the world of work relating to the digital transformation of work, including platform work” in order to promote inclusive and sustainable development, full and productive employment and decent work for all. While there have been many research studies and reports that document the regulatory responses based on litigations or through collective bargaining agreements to ensure protection to platform workers, little is still known about the impact of these policies on platform workers and platform companies. It is not clear to what extent workers have been able to benefit from these regulatory policy responses and how the platform companies have changed their policies to ensure protection to these workers. This study makes an effort to fill this gap by focusing on the analysis of the effects of regulatory policy responses and measures introduced or implemented by some of the countries as well as collective bargaining agreements on platforms workers, platform companies and other traditional businesses.
Though there are no estimates with regard to the proportion of workers engaged on these platforms, they are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, considering the pace and speed at which the platform economy is growing. It is therefore increasingly important to map the impact of various legal and regulatory measures on decent work, employment opportunitie and the needs of sustainable enterprises so as to create a knowledge base that would be helpful for policy makers to make informed policy decisions at the national, regional or international level.
2. Objectives of research
The project, ‘Enhancing labour standards and protection measures for platform workers’, aims to build the knowledge base for policy makers and different stakeholders on the impacts of regulatory measures taken by governments as well as collective bargaining agreements to address some of the challenges related to platform work, bearing in mind the opportunities created by the platforms. In this respect, the main objective of this study is to analyse the impact by mapping the situation before and after the implementation of the regulatory measures in (France, India, Spain, United Kingdom and United States) of workers and businesses on digital labour platforms based on a survey of workers and interviews with representatives of unions, worker associations, platform companies, employers’ organizations and government. The analysis will include the policy impacts on decent work, adequate social protection, employment opportunities, labour rights and sustainable enterprises.
The project also intends to explore the legal status of platform workers through a review of the various frameworks established for a platform economy.
3. Timeline and deliverables
Start of contract: August 15, 2021
The duration of the contract is from August 15 2021 to July 30, 2022, when the contract will expire.
The following deliverables will be required once the contract is signed:
1. Work plan for the assignment duration, including a timeline, survey design and research activities, such as literature review, stakeholder meetings, surveys and interviews with workers, platform companies, unions, employer organisations and governments.
2. Literature review and report of the analysis including information on referenced materials.
3. Overview report analysing the results of the surveys and interviews with workers and different stakeholders, meetings, and workshops.
4. Draft report in English that draws together the key discussion and findings from the surveys and interviews with the stakeholders/experts, and the literature review.
5. Final report in English
Participation to this project is open to research institutions, or small teams of individual researchers, preferably with a PhD in Law. A proven experience in conducting focus-group interviews, transcribing and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data is required.
Interested candidates should send:
• A short proposal (3 pages maximum) for a single country or a set of countries should be submitted, explaining the motivation, how the work will be carried out, and highlighting applicants’ experience in conducting research in this area.
• CV(s) detailing relevant experience of the expert(s) in charge of using quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection would be an added advantage.
• Detailed cost estimate for the tasks to be completed.
The ILO will award between US$15,000 and 20,000 for this work for each country, depending on the scope of the project and the experience of the consultants.
Applications should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 31, 2021. Selected candidates will be contacted by September 15, 2021. The final terms of references for this work will be developed jointly by the ILO and the consultant(s), and contract awarded by September, 2021.