IGF 2019 WS #200 Rethinking the Jobs of the Future for Vulnerable Populations and Women at the Margins

Organizer 1: Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 2: Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 3: Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 4: Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Organizer 5: Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 1: Helani Galpaya, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Sebastián Siseles, Private Sector, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Mark Graham, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 4: Carolina Caeiro, Technical Community, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

Looking at both jobs being created through the digital transformation and needed skill-sets, what concrete job opportunities exist for workers in the Global South? What is the gap between skills needed and workforce qualifications, specifically for low-income women in the Global South? 

To what extent can low-income women in the Global South take advantage of jobs being created? What strategies can be leveraged to ensure that low-skilled women are better equipped to participate in the digital economy? What does it take to bring new female workers up to speed to meet job demand?

What measures are needed to ensure emerging and evolving jobs provide decent work opportunities for vulnerable populations in the Global South, particularly women?


GOAL 1: No Poverty
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities

The roundtable will be structured around debating three central questions: (a) what opportunities exist in the gig economy for workers in the Global South;  (b) what strategies can be deployed to ensure that populations at the margin, particularly low-income women, can also have access to the jobs of the future; and (c) how to encourage that the future of work be shaped to provide decent work and sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable populations and women at the margins.


The session will be moderated by Laurent Elder, Director of Networked Economies at IDRC. Five guest speakers will be given 5 minutes each for opening remarks.


The round table will start off with the point of view from the private sector. Sebastian Siseles, from Freelancer.com  will begin by giving a snapshot of how the work landscape is evolving: what jobs are emerging on online work platforms, what jobs are being transformed, and how workers are filling those opportunities.


The roundtable will then continue to provide insights from development practitioners in South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the African region.


Helani Galpaya, Chief Executive Officer of LIRNEasia will be sharing key data and evidence on disparities in ICT access and use based on gender in LAC, Africa and Southeast Asia.  


Carolina Caeiro, Development Projects Coordinator at LACNIC will give a brief presentation on the latest outcomes of Ayitic Goes Global. Throughout 2017 to 2019 the initiative sought to increase women’s access to online work in Haiti by building digital capacities and supporting job search on online platforms with 300 young women. 

Mark Graham, from Fairwork Foundation will speak to the principles for online platforms and some of the best practices in the emerging platform economy.

Lastly, the roundtable will invite a government representative to weigh in on visions about inclusivity and the future of work at a national and international scale. Alejandra Erramuspe, from Uruguay’s Agency for the e-Government and the Information & Communication Society (AGESIC) will touch upon concrete actions and time-bound targets that can be addressed by governments for the inclusion of vulnerable populations in the digital economy.

The remaining 60 minutes will be dedicated to debating with in-person and online session participants with the goal of identifying key challenges at play in developing inclusive approaches to prepare the workforce of the future and scalable strategies to integrate vulnerable populations, particularly low-skilled women in the Global South, into the digital economy. 

Expected outcome:

The session expects to produce three main outcomes:

  • Present a realistic picture of the job opportunities that are emerging for populations in the Global South and visualize existing gaps between skills needed and the female workforce current ability to meet existing job demand.

  • Map out vulnerable communities that are currently excluded or unable to fully participate in the gig economy and identify the reasons and challenges around bringing about their greater participation into the digital economy. 

  • Outline lessons learned about how to empower vulnerable populations and encourage their participation in the workforce of the future. List out strategies that can be replicated for a more inclusive Future of Work.

  • Debate what works well and what needs improving in the gig economy, in terms of providing sustainable livelihoods and decent work for low-income women in the Global South.


The roundtable seeks to be highly participative, and the moderation will seek to encourage as much participation from the audience as from invited speakers. Participants will be asked to join speakers at the roundtable and encouraged to identify the sectors and stakeholder groups they represent. The remote moderator will invite remote participants to also introduce their background to share with the room. The debate will be strongly guided by the three proposed questions and the moderator will call on participants to provide their point of view and experiences to enrich the mapping and identification of both challenges to inclusion into the digital economy as well as the strategies for empowering marginalized communities to participate in the workforce of the future. Workshop organizers and speakers will also be asked to promote the session with colleagues working on digital inclusion and the future of work to ensure the workshop has rich participation from stakeholders with relevant experiences and views to participate in the discussion.

Relevance to Theme:

The workshops seeks to get to the heart of one crucial aspect of digital inclusion: what the future of work looks like for vulnerable populations, particularly,  women with low-digital skills in the Global South.


Increased Internet connectivity and lower workforce costs have allowed companies to outsource a growing number of jobs to destinations across the Global South either through traditional BPO models or through online, freelancing platforms. In low and middle income countries, remote and platform-mediated work is usually perceived as a good chance to overcome pervasive unemployment and derive new sources of income for qualified populations.  


Securing work, however, remains challenging for many, particularly for women. 


On the one hand, required skill sets means that new work opportunities are beyond the reach of populations with lower levels of digital literacy, and oftentimes, with limited access to Internet connectivity. Additional challenges are faced by historically marginalized groups, such as low-income women. 


Even for those able to take advantage of job creation, working conditions are often dire. In the case of talent platforms, for example, many spend a considerable number of unpaid hours looking and bidding for work. New platform users have a hard time securing their first gigs.  Achieving liveable wages and dignified working conditions seems particularly difficult for a considerable proportion of the platform users.


Overall, vulnerable populations --low-income women in particular--  are at the risk of being further marginalized if unable to reap the benefits of the digital economy and the new and transforming nature of the jobs of the future.


The workshop seeks to discuss: (a) what gap exists between skills needed and workforce qualifications in the Global South; (b) what strategies can be set in place to close that gap, and ensure that women with low digital skills are better equipped to take advantage of new and transforming work opportunities; and (c) debate what policy and private sector compromises are needed for ensuring that the jobs of the future offer decent and sustainable livelihoods for women and populations at the margins. 

Relevance to Internet Governance: 

The Internet offers a wealth of opportunities to users, but it can also be a great magnifier of existing inequalities if efforts are not set in place to ensure the inclusion of marginalized communities.


Research has highlighted that low-income women and girls in developing countries not only tend to have less access to the Internet, they are also lagging behind in terms of digital skills.  With the imminent transformation of the landscape brought about by automatization and the data revolution, considering the implications for low-income women in the Global South becomes a particularly relevant policy discussion for governments and private sector in particular.


Much debate has centered around opportunities of the future of work for the Global South, but what is often neglected is that emerging opportunities cater to a digitally-able workforce. Further debate is needed to understand: a) what it takes to vulnerable populations, such as low-income women, with lower digital skills to be brought up to speed and not left behind and b) how online platform workers may improve their working conditions and (c) what it takes to make online work accessible to vulnerable populations.

Online Participation

There will be an online moderator that will encourage as much as possible online participation, in particular from countries from the global south. In addition, after the first round of interventions, the discussion section of the roundtable will open up with an invitation to online participants to comment on the opening interventions and pose questions to the speakers.

Proposed Additional Tools: During the opening remarks, participants will be invited to pose questions and comments using an online Q&A and Polling Platform; these will be reviewed and used as starters for incentivizing the debate.

1. Key Policy Questions and Expectations

The sessions aims to discuss the following policy questions: 

a) what concrete job opportunities exist for workers in the Global South? What is the gap between skills needed and workforce qualifications, specifically for low-income women in the Global South? 

b) To what extent can low-income women in the Global South take advantage of jobs being created? What strategies can be leveraged to ensure that low-skilled women are better equipped to participate in the digital economy? What does it take to bring new female workers up to speed to meet job demand?

c) What measures are needed to ensure emerging, and evolving jobs provide decent work opportunities for vulnerable populations in the Global South, particularly women?

2. Summary of Issues Discussed

The discussion unpacked multiple facets of modern work, including technological advances such as automation, and the emergence of digital platforms; preparedness to take advantage of online opportunities; legal protections and rights to ensure that gig workers are treated fairly; and unique challenges faced by women from the Global South in accessing fair work.  Panellists agreed that the benefits of online and gig work were less achievable in the developing world because of disparate determinants to successful gig work when compared with the developed world, including: low Internet and digital skills penetration rates; precariousness in employer-employee relations (legal classification of workers as opposed to service providers, unsafe work, low accountability of platforms, etc.); incongruity between traditional educational offer and modern-work needs (preparing for jobs that have not been invented as yet); and challenges in enforcing laws (e.g. labour and taxation) for new work models. Legal challenges are significant -  ambiguity surrounding the classification of gig workers as employees or freelancers/independent businesses means that the gig workers are at risk of being exploited by some platform companies and corporations. Panellists also agreed that current challenges have led to the creation of a digital underclass in some cases, as opportunities are slanted towards specific population segments while the digitally excluded and vulnerable groups become further disadvantaged in future work. 

3. Policy Recommendations or Suggestions for the Way Forward

Panellists indicated that multiple forms of global governance were critical to addressing jurisdictional challenges and other legal matters for gig workers. Panellists recognised that legislation at local levels was slow to adapt to new employment models, and that there are even difficulties in domesticating some soft law created from international organisations such as the OECD. There were shortcomings among multilateral organisations in their grasp of the range of issues implicated in gig work. However, given the nature of transnational, digital work, mixed approaches to setting global principles for fair work were essential. At the enterprise level, gig work management needs to be flexible to better leverage workers’ outputs. Panellists also identified new approaches to developing skills of gig workers. Using the example of training by the CEIBAL Foundation in Uruguay, that country’s IT sector was engaged in the development of curricula to better align training outcomes with the present-day needs of businesses. The session also underlined that future work will consist of traditional activities and new technologies, such as the deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in medical diagnoses. Striking the balance is key to maximising the potential of technological advances and new forms of work.

4. Other Initiatives Addressing the Session Issues

Initiatives addressing the issues raised in this session included: 

Fairwork project – the Fairwork Foundation brings together platforms, workers, trade unions, regulators, and academics in meetings held at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to set global principles for fair work in the platform economy. Having developed five Fairwork principles (fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, fair representation), the Foundation evaluates platform companies and score their ‘fairness’ using a ten-point marking scheme.

The Center for Research CEIBAL Foundation – CEIBAL foundation provides advice to the ongoing implementation of the CEIBAL Plan in Uruguay, which introduces educational technology into that country’s classrooms and digitises learning. The Foundation works on promoting digital skills, and also traditional competencies such as critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving.

Ayitic Goes Global – This project sought to increase young Haitian women’s access to employment by building their digital capacities, shoring up Haitian internet infrastructure through bespoke training for the local technical community, and matching young women graduates with gig opportunities, internships, and long-term employment. Between 2017 and 2019, the project successfully trained 358 women and 163 technicians, and oversaw the engagement of some graduates for work opportunities.

5. Making Progress for Tackled Issues

More emphasis must be placed on legal classifications of workers to ensure that gig workers are afforded adequate rights as traditional employees, and not treated as independent businesses with little accountability for platform companies. Similarly, 21st century skills should also be redefined to understand the changing nature of work. Discourse on both matters should be further developed at the IGF and other policy spaces, and not be confined to academic debates.

Rethinking how traditional employment is viewed is critical to improving the conditions of gig workers as new employment models such as platform work arise. Their is a need for further evaluation of the gig economy within the IGF system and among other international organisations. Awareness and cognition among non-traditional IG actors (e.g. trade unions, labour organisations, courts) would also be instrumental to having platform companies comply with rules, and offer labour and general rights to gig workers.

6. Estimated Participation

There were approximately thirty onsite participants and five online participants.

7. Reflection to Gender Issues

Gender bias within cultures disproportionately affected young women’s access to gig work, as the challenge to securing employment is compounded with that of ensuring that young women had access to ICTs. Perceptions of female gig workers differed between the developed and developing worlds. In the first case, female gig workers positively combined gig work with opportunities for child care at home. In the developing world, gig work was sometimes perceived as a competing interest to “traditional” societal roles. Also, unpaid time for women to skill up for digital opportunities was seen as problematic in some households in developing countries.