Fair gig work

At a glance

The gig economy refers to a labour market comprised of short-term jobs, so called ‘gigs’. These ‘gigs’ are usually completed by workers contracted on a non-permanent basis and are mediated via digital labour platforms. The gigs can be accessed and completed solely online as cloudwork (e.g.programming or content creation) or initially accessed online, to then be carried out in an analogue and physical manner as location-based work (e.g. delivery services).

Over 40 million people in low- and middle-income countries earn part or their entire income in the gig economy, and this figure is rising. Digital platforms stimulate employment and income generation through the increased availability and access to digitally mediated jobs. In this context, platforms are the intermediaries that connect supply and demand and also set the framework and rules for exchange and behaviour of workers and clients.

Alongside the growth and potential are the challenges arising from the new modus of work. Workers may face poor pay, intransparent algorithmic management decisions and dismissals, long working hours and more. There is a lack of suitable conditions, knowledge, and instruments to promote fair work in the gig economy nationally and internationally. This is where the Gig Economy Initiative comes into play. The initiative promotes fairer and higher labour standards in the gig economy at the level of workers, platforms, and policymakers. With its holistic approach it seeks to strike a balance between enabling new and equitable employment opportunities and minimising existing challenges.

Brazil’s gig workers


Jessica, Marcelo and Juliana are three of more than 600,000 Brazilian workers who take orders daily through digital labour platforms. Mostly without fair pay, labour protection or the right to organise collectively with other workers – effectively excluded from the protection of Brazilian labour law. We have accompanied them in their everyday life.

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Our approach

The aim of the Gig Economy Initiative is to create the necessary conditions for fair work in the gig economy at the level of 1) workers, 2) platforms and 3) other key stakeholders from politics, business and civil society. The initiative offers training and guidance for workers, supports the scale-up of an evaluation mechanism for the fairness of platforms and advises platforms on how to improve their working conditions. The initiative also raises awareness among policy stakeholders for the potentials and risks of the gig economy and existing regulatory gaps.

  • The Gig Economy Initiative develops tools and training for gig workers (online and site-based), for which you can pre-register here, to help them enter the gig economy, better navigate it, or find other employment. Learning opportunities raise gig workers’ awareness of skills in demand and their own rights. The development of these tools and trainings follows the principles of human-centered learning and is grounded in evidence-based outcomes about gig workers’ needs, challenges, and skill gaps.

    The online gig worker courses provide workers with a basic orientation to platform work, decent work, and fair working conditions. In addition, the courses provide information on gender and resilience, as well as important financial, social, and digital skills in the gig economy. In addition, the initiative is currently developing specific modules for workers* in areas of domestic and care work, cloud work, micro-tasking, and driving and delivery services.

    To ensure that gig workers are able to adapt to a dynamic labor market by quickly upgrading and updating their skills, the initiative is also exploring the potential value of micro-skills. The initiative is developing a skills compass to identify training needs on platforms and a tool to help workers* compare their income to subsistence levels. To promote gender equality, a mentorship program for 150 female gig workers is being piloted in Kenya. To achieve greater reach and impact, capacity workshops for intermediary organizations working with workers, such as unions, labor agencies, and institutes, are also being developed and implemented.

    At the micro level, learning, information, counseling, and digital tools will be piloted and made available to workers to improve both knowledge of their rights and their mid- and long-term job and career opportunities. The initiative has also released an informational tool that offers insights into the value of so-called microcredentials for career development and advancement. The training courses can lead to better working conditions and a higher income for gig workers.

Further information

Brazil’s gig workers


Jessica, Marcelo and Juliana are three of more than 600,000 Brazilian workers who take orders daily through digital labour platforms. Mostly without fair pay, labour protection or the right to organise collectively with other workers – effectively excluded from the protection of Brazilian labour law.

One click, another job for Jessica (24). She often manages three jobs a day. For Jessica, a working day usually lasts longer than 12 hours. Since she was 16, she has been working as a cleaner for clients in São Paulo who book her services via platforms. Actually, she wants to become a doctor.

To get to her jobs in the city, she travels more than three hours every day by bus and train through São Paulo. Two or three jobs a day mean a total of 12 hours of cleaning. Jessica tries to divide her time so that she is not in the way of her clients. She always talks to them in advance to find out what day and time is preferred and structures her day that way.

According to Jessica, the platform keeps at least half of the order amount as a service fee. Jobs in wealthier areas are more expensive for clients, but the hourly wage for Jessica remains the same.

Marcelo (55) lost his job in the advertising industry and started working as a driver for Uber. On the side, he also does private driving and offers surveillance services. He has already done a total of 13760 gig jobs.

For a brief moment, Marcelo is part of the lives of strangers: Some tell sad stories, some tell happy stories. There are people who really need to vent during the ride, then he feels like a psychologist for a short time. He tries to give the people advice when they are feeling bad, which usually earns him a lot of respect.

The apps give you the opportunity to be your own boss. Marcelo knows that you have to be even more disciplined to do this. You can set your own schedule, you can work at night, during the day, at dawn – or take a day off. But you have to have a goal in mind, because without it, it’s hard. Since you earn very little, you have to try methods to earn as much as possible in little time.

Single mother Juliana (34) has been working as a delivery person for platforms like iFood and Uber for three years and is on the road a lot. There is no support from the platforms, such as an emergency button for accidents, breakdowns or robberies, Juliana says. On the road, you are on your own – especially as a woman.

Juliana’s days are long and she is on her feet a lot. Food deliveries are only part of her job, she also works in a bar and sells sweets in the neighbourhood.

When they arrive at the order address, sentences like “Wow, she’s a woman, that’s why it took so long” are not uncommon. This ignores the fact that Juliana only needed five minutes to make the delivery. It was the restaurant that took more time to provide Juliana with the delivery. However, she gets the reaction.


Photos © Fairwork / Rafael Vilela