Fair gig work

At a glance

The gig economy is characterised by a labour market comprised of freelance and short term jobs, so called ‘gigs’, in which organisations contract with independent workers on a non-permanent basis, rather than traditionally recruiting full-time employees. The gigs are usually mediated via digital labour platforms and can be either conveyed and carried out online as cloudwork (e.g., programming or content creation) or be conveyed online and carried out in an analogue and localised manner as location-based work (e.g. delivery services).
Around 40 million people in low- and middle-income countries earn part or their entire income in the gig economy, and the figure is rising. Digital platforms contribute to the creation of employment and income by lowering entry barriers. Platforms act as intermediaries that connect supply and demand, but also set the framework and rules for exchange and behaviour of workers and clients.
Despite their central position, platform companies often act purely as intermediaries and classify workers as independent contractors or self-employed. This eliminates important statutory duties of, for instance, paying a minimum wage or collective bargaining rights which leads to a precariousness of work and growing power asymmetries between platforms and workers. The risks for workers are amongst others poor pay, non-transparent dismissals, a lack of professional development opportunities and regulated processes to appeal against decisions made by the platforms, long working hours and many 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 flagship gig economy comes into play.

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.

open photo reportage

Our approach

The aim of the gig economy flagship is to create the necessary conditions for fair work in the gig economy at the level of 1) workers (micro level), 2) platforms (meso level) and 3) key stakeholders from politics, business and civil society (macro level). This is achieved through capacity development among relevant actors, global expansion of an evaluation mechanism for the fairness of the platforms as well as national and international awareness raising for the potentials and dangers of the gig economy.

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