Workers’ rights eroding amid rise in online work: ILO report

Workers' rights eroding

Workers’ rights eroding

ILO has urged for international dialogue to boost workers rights amid a shift towards a digital economy

The global COVID-19 pandemic saw an unprecedented rise in online platforms, resulting in a surge in employment opportunities for workers across the world. As per a recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of digital platforms offering job opportunities have increase five-fold in the past decade. However, a rise in online platforms has also resulted in increased erosion of workers’ rights in recent years, the UN agency reported.  

According to the ILO report titled “World Employment and Social Outlook 2021”, digital labor platforms are providing new work opportunities for all sections of society, including women, people with disabilities, and those marginalized in traditional labor markets. In the report, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder noted that these opportunities must be welcomed. But, a rise in the workforce in the digital economy has led to an increase in the challenges for workers across sectors. As the COVID-19 pandemic brought a significant shift towards a digital economy, the way work is organized and regulated has also changed. Irregular work and income, unpredictable hours, lack of social protection, and improper working conditions are among some of the difficulties faced by workers across the world.

The ILO also observed inequities in digital economy with workers in developing countries earning at least 60 percent less than those in developed countries.

“Half of the online platform workers earn less than US$2 per hour. In addition, some platforms have significant gender pay gaps,” the UN agency said in its press release. 

In addition, jobs opportunities created by digital labour platforms are further blurring the distinction between employees and the self-employed. 

“Work on online web-based platforms is outsourced by businesses in the global North, and performed by workers in the global South, who earn less than their counterparts in developed countries. This uneven growth of the digital economy perpetuates a digital divide and risks exacerbating inequalities,” ILO added.

In order to resolve the crisis, the ILO has called for global social dialogue and regulatory cooperation between digital platforms, governments, and workers to ensure an effective and consistent approach towards various objectives including, transparency and accountability of algorithms for workers and businesses, classification of workers’ employment status, and access to adequate social security benefits.

Noting that digital platforms function across various platforms, the ILO has maintained that there is a need for international policy dialogue to ensure regulatory certainty and application of international labour standards.

“This growth has underlined the need for international policy dialogue and regulatory cooperation in order to provide decent work opportunities and foster the growth of sustainable businesses more consistently,” the ILO said. 

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