Digital labour platforms and the future of work: towards decent work in the online world

Gig economy Working conditions Work insecurity Wages Future of work

One of the most prominent transformations in the world of work during the past decade is the emergence of digital labour platforms. They include both web-based platforms, where work is outsourced through an open call to a geographically dispersed crowd (“crowdwork”), and location-based applications (apps) which allocate work to individuals in a specific geographical area. While digital labour platforms are a product of technological advances, work on these platforms resembles many long-standing work arrangements, merely with a digital tool serving as an intermediary.

This report presents the results of an ILO survey of working conditions covering 3, 500 workers living in 75 countries around the world and working on five English-speaking microtask platforms. Microtask platforms are a type of web-based labour platform that provide businesses and other clients with access to a large, flexible workforce (a “crowd”) for the completion of small, mostly clerical tasks, that can be completed remotely using a computer and Internet connection. These tasks are diverse, including image identification, transcription and annotation; content moderation; data collection and processing; audio and video transcription; and translation. Clients use the platforms to post bulk tasks that need completion; workers select the tasks and are paid for each individual task or piece of work completed. The platforms pay the workers the price indicated by the client minus their fee.

This report provides one of the first comparative studies of working conditions on microtask platforms, including pay rates, work availability, work intensity, rejections and non-payment, worker communication with clients and platform operators, social protection coverage and the types of work performed. The survey, conducted in 2015 and 2017, has a global reach, with workers from developed and developing countries, and finds both commonalities and differences between workers from the global North and global South. The findings highlight both benefits and drawbacks to the work, and advances a series of principles for improving working conditions on digital labour platforms. Like most

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