Researchers from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Information Systems (IS) Department formed part of the team that created the first-ever ratings system for working conditions on digital platforms.
The Fairwork Foundation, in collaboration with Oxford University, the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, the University of Cape Town, the University of Manchester and the University of the Western Cape, has created a ratings system to evaluate the working conditions on platforms like Uber, Taxify, SweepSouth and NoSweat.
As part of a 30-month project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), Professor Jean-Paul Van Belle and Dr Paul Mungai, both with UCT’s IS Department, investigated to what extent the Fairwork principles are adhered to by digital labour platforms operating in South Africa.
“Encouragingly, a number of South African platforms have been very keen and forthcoming, wanting to collaborate in order to adhere to Fairwork principles and hoping to get good scores – or improve them.”
The platforms are scored according to five standards: fair work, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation. These include whether a company pays the minimum wage and ensures the health and safety of its workers.
In January this year, Van Belle and Mungai hosted a workshop to bring all stakeholders together, including platform and worker representatives.
“That is where we presented our work to date as well as the proposed scoring criteria,” said Van Belle.
Mungai interviewed about 70 platform workers during December, January and February to arrive at the scores.
“Encouragingly, a number of South African platforms have been very keen and forthcoming, wanting to collaborate in order to adhere to Fairwork principles and hoping to get good scores – or improve them,” said Van Belle.
After collaborating with Fairwork, the South African platform Bottles committed to support the emergence of fair representation of workers on its platform, free from company interference. The NoSweat platform has introduced significant changes in all five areas of fairness.
M4Jam, Money-for-Jam – a mobile micro-working platform that was not part of the initial round of scoring – has just approached the team to get a rating.
“The Fairwork rating system shines a light on best and worst practice in the platform economy. This is an area in which, for too long, very few regulations have been in place to protect workers,” says Mark Graham, professor of internet geography at the University of Oxford.
“These ratings will enable consumers to make informed choices about the platforms and services they need when ordering a cab, a takeaway or outsourcing a simple task.”
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