You are here

IGF 2017 - Day 1 - Room XXIII - WS60 The Future Of Work: Is the Gig Economy Working for Developing Countries?

 

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 December 2017. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

***

 

>> ALISON GILLWALD: Internet coverage, except very few people can afford the devices.  In South Africa, we have about 50%.  But many countries, especially the least developed countries.  Tanzania and Mozambique have very low Internet levels.  Rwanda and Mozambique, below (?)%.  And Tanzania, 13.5%.  In these countries we're not reaching that critical mass you need in order to get the network effects to work.

Close to 50%.  And so what is interesting then is the vast differences in economic take-up or microwork in those countries.

So in the case of Rwanda, for example, you have this backbone of the country.  Obviously with enormous legacies from the genocide and development challenges.

Interesting from a political perspective too, the biggest difference, gender gap is actually in Rwanda as well, way above other countries.  And reflective of some of the challenges we're seeing.

The gender gap reflects the concentration of women at the bottom of the pyramid.  And of course, they're going to be later to come online.  Technology in and of itself, but also inequality, social and structural inequalities that exist in the economy and between men and women.

So the other interesting thing then is the differences of microwork take-up in these different economies.  In relation to the political economy in the country.  Very interestingly, Nigeria has a significantly higher microwork take-up than South Africa for example, which has much higher penetration level.

That's a very interesting thing to see, because it fits in clearly with some of the sort of notions of Nigeria being a very (?) unreliant on the states.  There is no state safety net.  So people are moving into opportunities that exist.

And not entirely legal either.  On the Internet.  But quite extensive, quite a lot of use of that opportunity.  Whereas in South Africa, for example, it's already 90% of the Internet population is doing microwork.  But there's a much bigger safety net.  Most of these countries face serious structural unemployment issues.  In South Africa, there's a safety net to pick up some of that.

Nigeria, no safety yet, (?) use.  Interestingly, the different levels of education.  So broadly speaking, graduates are not doing microwork.  Very low levels of microwork are being done.  Not very highly skilled work has been done online.

And for example, in Nigeria, which does have quite a high graduate rate, but very high levels of unemployment at the moment, particularly, you do get some graduates doing work.  But generally, across the other countries, no graduates doing microwork at all.

And Rwanda and Tanzania, in the least developed counties, you have primary school workers doing microwork.  All of the other countries it tends to be at school level and a few more advanced economies, a little bit of graduate work.

But basically it's low-level work.  This is reflected in a very interesting phenomenon that seems to be somewhat different from the other countries.  Possibly not from Asia, because we are still getting the native data on that.  What we're seeing is the use of the digital platform for manual microwork.

So people are accessing digital platforms in order to do texting, hailing, services, driving services.

But manual labor, gardening, housekeeping, cleaning, et cetera.  The use of a digital platform, because of the low levels of industrialization and services we spoke to earlier, any work that's been done with these low levels of education, primarily manual piecework.  Thank you.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Alison.  We'll come back to those questions about skills and education.  I want to turn now to the Middle East and give for remarks by Mona Badran.  And Mona Badran is an associate professor in the department of economics at Cairo University.  Mona?

>> MONA BADRAN: Thank you.  I would like to talk about how the bridge the gender divide in the Arab region and gender gap in general in this region.

Increase economic opportunities for Arab women and it will increase the GDP, estimated by about 47% in region.  What are the factors that hampering this achievement?  Includes Alison's remarks, affordability and lack of access to ICT services.  Norms and social restrictions on women's physical and social mobility.

Also prioritization of access to available computers and phones and lack of access for girls and women to safe and women-friendly cyber cafés.  These are all factors that impede the equal access and use of ICT for women in the Arab region.

Both as consumers and creators of technology.  Mathematics and education is very important and has to be promoted for careers for Arab women as well.  We need to reach the Arab team, and especially in the regions who need the challenges by the industrial revolution.  There are industries anticipating job growth.  Includes architecture, computers and mathematics.

So all these industries require the STEM education and there's a global imbalance in gender.

Very huge in Arab region and needs to be addressed.  The status quo in this region includes low female levels forced, participation and employment rates.  Higher gender gap and social protection coverage.  The region is suffering from the largest gender gap from all other regions according to the world economic forum, we need about 150 years to close the gender gap in the region.  Of course, access and use of ICP is essential prerequisite.  Importance of securing relevant content online so they can have the chance to increase their skills and acquire jobs that would receive enhanced skills and (?).

Policy implications, about the Industrial Revolution is although it will happen to the Arab countries, but it will take some time, as one of my colleagues mentioned, that it will affect -- take some time to be materialized for some regions like the Arab region, however it will happen.

For example, because of rapid technological adoption in this region and large number of workers in (?) jobs, this will have a negative impact on the labor market in Arab area.

But there is a positive side to that.  If we have time, then we have the chance to learn from experiences of the other countries.  We have a chance to adopt better.  So in this case, some policy interventions might reduce a bit of the gender divide in Arab region include some -- for example, when we talk about dire intervention, policy intervention, we can provide model for Arab females, providing mentoring, guiding Arab women to training in these new technologies.  Adopting new approach that serve learnability, which makes the number one prerequisite to have a job, is that you are able to learn new skills.

Increasing human capital investment in Arab women, especially in mid-career.  As to the indirect policy interventions, include that you increase the agency of women in the society so they are empowered in the society, and this will reflect (?) in the labor market in the Arab region.

There are two ways the postindustrial revolution can impact the gender gap.  First narrowing the gender gap, which through the household work can be further automated.  But this is a minor impact.  Also because of the new approach to the division of labor at home, especially for men.

But the most impact comes from the replacement of workers of routine jobs and this will also address the gender imbalance in the labor market globally.

In order to overcome these problems, new measures, such as flexible working hours, teleworking, motivating companies to switch to results-driven evaluations would be to increase female labor market participation generally and in the Arab Region as well.

Another thing that was also mentioned by other countries includes basic income or guaranteed minimum income.  This was adopted by countries like Finland and India, where especially when you talk about India, about 30% of the population is below the poverty line.  So they adopted this unconditional transfers from the government.  This is income received from other means, in order to overcome the technological unemployment due to the postindustrial revolution or the machine age.

The outcome of this measure or initiative was that so that attrition has improved.  So people who got these unconditional cash transfers.  Women gained more than men from this initiative.

Thank you very much.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you for this perspective, Mona and for reminding us of importance of the gender perspective in this discussion.  Thank you for that.

So we've covered Latin America, Africa, Arab Region and we turn to South Asia.  We have three speakers who are going to address this region.  I want to start with Jacki O'Neill.  She's the senior researcher in technologies for emerging market at Microsoft Research India.

>> JACKI O'NEILL: As an ethnographer I've been studying access since 2011, and I'm going to talk briefly about some of my key findings, particularly about workers working on mechanical in the U.S. and India.

And then workers in the highly local service base industries which makes up much of the gig industry.

Auto (?) drivers, the -- India's homegrown Uber and you can call one using your Ola.

These are quite different work if you think about wholly digital, potentially global crowd work, versus highly local, driving people around in a car work.  And there's also food delivery and other things like that.

From my studies, one of the most striking findings is even though these types of work are quite different, from the workers' perspective, the problems that the workers face, the issues the workers face are pretty much the same.  And this is because they have one thing in common, that work is mediated by a private technology platform.

Which aggregates and distributes the work.  I don't have time to talk about all my findings.  I'm going to talk about two particularly relevant to this panel, which is worker autonomy versus platform control.  And competing in the global labor market.

Workers are modeled as independent free lancers.  They are not considered as employees.  And workers indeed do value their independence and flexibility.  If you talk to workers, that's one of the key things that they'll say.  I like my independence and flexibility.  However it's worth looking a little deeper am of what does independence and flexibility mean in these environments?  Crowd work.  The original idea was you could use any spare minutes you had to make a bit of money.

However, when we actually look at what happens, it's not really the case that it works like that.  On the big platforms, there's usually some work available.  But the jobs that pay well are few and far between and high competition between the workers for them.  What we found is that crowd work is set up elaborate schedules for ways of being online when the jobs came online.  In reality, there is the crowd worker who has to be flexibility to the rhythms of work on the platform rather than working when they want.

Cab drivers, you might think they have a bit more flexibility.  However in India, this is full-time work for almost all the drivers.  They typically work 12-14 hour days to make adequate wages.  Economically, there's little leeway for them to exercise that flexibility beyond maybe dropping the kids off at school before going to work.

So flexibility, not quite as flexible as you might think.  Independence, let's look at that.  So crowd workers are certainly independent from the individual employers, the people who provide the task.  But then not independent from the platforms.  The platforms can and do suspend and bar them giving little reason for that.

Crowd workers know this, and because the platforms are typically opaque, they don't know what's going on, they spend a lot of time doing unpaid work to make sure they maintain their reputations and don't get barred.

Drivers were already independent before they started working for Ola.  Ola acts as a digital middleman.  It controls the platform, the network.  It mediates between the customers and the drivers.

And unfortunately, it does all this while doing little to reduce the uncertainty of their day.  A driver, that's your problem, how much money you're going to earn.

The workers are trying to work out what's going on with the platform all on their own.  So what we find then is current platform design limits both the independence of flexibility of workers in these labor markets and raises issues of transparency and control.

So this is the perspective of crowd work, which is the global labor market.  What's it like working in a global labor market if you're from the global south?  You would think, theoretically, because of the differential cost of living, dollar for dollar, you're going to be earning more.  For the same amount of money your money goes further.

However in reality there are barriers to learning a living wage.  Language barriers.  Technology and band width.  Many of the people who are doing this work are from low-income communities or from more rural areas.  They don't have the same band width.  And then restrictions and -- it's not so easy for the Indian workers because they can't do the same work in the same time.  They typically end up having to work more hours for the same amount of money, and not all work is available.  So it's really important to remember, and I completely agree here, that crowd work generally is low-wage work wherever you live.

The designs of these labor markets is embodied in the technology platforms which aggregate and disburse work.  This gives the platforms enormous amounts of control, but they currently take little responsibility for the workers who work on those platforms.  So this is an artifact of current platform design.  It doesn't have to be this way.

There's nothing inherent in the gig economy market that says it shouldn't take into account work practices and workers' concerns.  We have two solutions.  Firstly, we can lobby the platform designers to design platforms better for their workers.  I would strongly argue they would get better work if they did this.  Current platform design sets up an adversarial system between the worker and the platform.

We can't influence the platform, but we can design tools for crowd workers and gig workers as a whole to maintain their work for skill and career development.

To sum up, gig work as it is, is not exactly a shining beacon of hope in the global south.  The future is in our hands.  It's up to us to make it better.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Jacki, for your fascinating findings from your work.  And very interesting to hear how common themes emerge from political economy, from ethnography, from all kinds of perspectives.  So thank you for that.

I want to turn now to Helani Galpaya.  At a think tank working across the Asia-Pacific.

>> HELANI GALPAYA: Thank you.  We studied platform media tech work.  And what we studied is broader than what Jacki was talking about.  Which is crowd work at one end, and at the other end, it's what the users, the workers call sort of more projects.  There's a whole range of work mediated through platform where the buyer and seller do not week.  It could be low pay work, one cent where you make for ad clicking for people who want to increase their ratings and earn more money.

At the other end there are software developers giving full packaged websites, at the back end doing some testing.  There's a whole range.

In the middle there's sort of $5 a gig designing logos and so on and so forth.  There's content writing for $1 for web pagers.  There's a whole range of work that is platform mediated.  Depending where you are in this platform, as a laborer, your life is terrible or pretty OK.

So at the terrible end is what Jacki was talking about, and that is real.  Not only are they making low money, they are sometimes they work for a long time on these platforms and are unable to get paid.  There are a lot of crooked platforms.  The platforms doesn't pay out until you have made $1,000.  And you need to click for a year to earn $1,000.

Workers in Shrilanka, oh, that is not allowed by the central bank, so I can't get paid.

The lower design content writing, a lot of people are working on this.  This is the most price competitive segment.  So in Shrilanka, which is a poor country, the workers will complain how they're getting underbid by Indian workers or Bangladesh workers.

So this is inconstant flux and this is slightly skilled, but heavily competed globally.  Then at the high end, you have the higher-skilled workers who are often working in software development, earning 300 to 5 (?) per job.  That could take 3 days to a week.

17,000-22,000 of these people work in Shrilanka.  Getting paid is the biggest problem.  The social perceptions around what they do.  Access to former financial services, it's a real problem.  In India, we talked to 300 workers.  Accessing finances and proving where you work and how you work, because only formal full-time employment is recognized.

Even though ironically, India's majority of employment is informal, these are slightly skilled people.  So they expect the same benefits that formal employment gives, because they are doing slightly skilled work in IT sector.  This is outside of the U.S., the largest workforce on working on platforms, according to actual numbers and according to the number of gigs that they do.

And yet, there's a huge -- these millions of workers, unable to have a categorization of their income when they want to open a bank account.  This is a real problem and a policy issue in terms of recognizing this as a labor category, employment category.

A really different marker.  It's a nonfunctional labor market which has recently opened to foreign companies, lots of ICT activity going on there.  And the platforms are not working in the traditional way we think of a platform.  They're sort of a substitute for formal human resource recruiting companies that you see in the west.

So people are afraid to take risks by hiring workers full time.  They put large contracts out there on platforms.  Like one of the big ones.  What if I get low quality job.  They have to run an escrow account so the worker doesn't know if they will get paid.  An escrow account where the buyer deposits the money when they put it gig up there, then the seller does the work, mostly remotely.  They don't necessarily meet.

And then some of the platform has to give some assurance of the work being done and then release the money when the buyer is happy.  So there are different models.

And in India, it's not only just this platform that I talked about, catering to these types of work.  There are very specialized ones.  There are ones designed to give women career mobility, high-end women who want to maybe change work, work from home.  Particularly targeting women who have recently had kids.  High-end marketing.

So this is not a poverty solution, this is just a labor mobility solution.  So when you talk to the poor workers as opposed to the privileged, rich workers, for a lot of them, this is a solution to underemployment.  Because they are doing many other job.  And while working in the gig and the platform mediated jobs.

They are under pressure for finances.  So this is why they do these jobs.  The ones who succeed, there's also a migration up these platforms, sometimes.  And these ones have a very common characteristic.

So if you analyze the people who start at the low end, they are constantly reskilling themselves.

These are the people who go and do the (?) and do other things.  They're very strong on soft, which is about how you keep time and manage a client's relationship.  They have better English skills, but many will actually say, you know what?  I just type really bad English, but we know basically what we're talking about kind of stuff, right?  So except for the content writers and website designers and content designers, language is not such a barrier.

And social respect for family is again another issue that keeps.  Everyone desires a government job.  So I think in conclusion, while the problems Alison talked about in terms of connecting, they are real.  And at the lower end, they are real.  There's a large middle ground for these people.

This is not a long-term solution, because this is a price-competitive market.  It's not a meaningful solution, because there's a whole lot of problems the government should solve like (?) to improve employment.

The narrative you get from the U.S., like this is really crap, it is not that.  It's not like oh my God, these people don't have social safety net.  There is no social safety net system for temporary workers and formal workers in Shrilanka, India.  So it's not like they're giving up some amazing job and getting into this.  The slightly different narrative for a certain group of people.  Thank you.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Helani and thank you for reminding us of the challenges that the economy is bringing to countries with high levels of informality and income inequality and low education, or poor quality education systems.

So all these are very interesting elements to the discussion.  I want to turn to our final speaker, Vigneswara Ilavarasan, Associate Professor in the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi.

>> VIGNESWARA ILAVARASAN: I'll take the case of India and try to expand on this topic.  I would say my discussion is going to have three major parts.  One that talks about the context.  The second one talk about the forecasting, what is going to happen in India in terms of future of work.  Third one talk about the possible scenarios.

Contexts, India is large country.  450 million people working.  By 2020, half of the population is going to be less than 26 years.

So jobs are very, very important.  We need to provide employment to people.  If automation is going to happen, what will happen to those people.  That is a big question.

How I would approach this future of work.  According to this sort of people, 60% of jobs are going to get automated in the U.S.

Those who are highly educated, there is a possibility the jobs are less automated over a period of time.  And skill level, if you're doing manual work now, you're going to get automated because of time.

Not necessarily that people are doing high end work, they're not going to get automated.  There is a possibility some of the part of the high end work get automated.  Do the things like artificial intelligence and robotics.

Given this, what is going to happen to India?  So we looked at secondary data that talks about 100,000 households.  If you look at education level, close to 77% of the jobs get replaced.  If you look at the skill level, it's around 87% of jobs replaced.

So if this particular forecasting is true, the impact is going to be really, really worse.  There is also data that shows highly educated people working, (?) job as well.  The average household size is close to 4.  So if somebody is going to lose a job.  90% of people are married.  So we get married very early in India.

When the 77% or 87%, people get lose jobs.  So family is going to get affected.  Their monthly expenditure is slightly larger than the monthly income.  Impact, in terms of (?) crime rate, everything is going to increase.  If this automation is going to happen.

A lot of these people are working in informal enterprises, maybe close to 85%, 90%.  Labor conditions are very poor.  Nothing is available.

So given these particular conditions, the impact of automation, especially in robotics and Indian workforce appears to be very gloomy.  If you look at other numbers, it is not the case.

I would say more optimistic.  If you look at the kind of enterprises these people are working, close to 75% of the enterprises on that side -- 450 million people working.  Working in enterprises.  These enterprises that have electricity.  We are really talking about automation getting into this particular enterprises.

I would say that scale efforts, I'm talking about necessary conditions are very, very weak for automation.  So that is the case, I would say that in near future, there's future of work in terms of being replaced by automation is going to be relatively limited, I would say.

But there are two possible scenarios.  What are the two possible scenarios?  One is from the perspective of microtech.  The technology are very small in nature.

Replacing these jobs.  For example, mobile based billing systems for (?).  So if you look at it, fancy technology, application that is getting installed in your mobile phones and replacing two or three people to manage cars in India.  That's happening.  Microtechnology is getting introduced into these enterprises.  It doesn't really require electricity.  There is a chance it will replace a job, but I would say the impact will be less.

The second one related to macro technologies.  You introduce where the technology will replace the entire industry.  Talking about smaller people, intermediaries, completely replaced by the higher technologies.  I'm not sure whether the government will (?) these kind of technologies.

For instance, transport minister recently made it very clear that driverless cars will not be allowed in India.  Made it very clear that none of the companies are going to experiment with this.  Government will not support driverless cars because we need jobs.

Given this, microtechnologies into this country is going to be difficult, because the government.  So that is the one side, you have marker completing with microtechnologies, a lot of enterprises are coming into play, mobile developed, in terms of looking at automation.  Microtechnologies being a system of the government.

So given this I would say I'm more optimistic about what is going to happen to the India workforce.  Because I don't see much impact is going to happen in terms of regional work.  Thank you.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Vigneswara.  And with that, we conclude the presentation part, and I want to now open for discussion.  Your comments or questions, both from the people in the audience and from our online audience as well.  So please, if you would raise your hand if you have a question.  And state briefly your name and your affiliation.

>> I'm from York University in Toronto.  My question is about data governance.  With these platforms sucking up a lot of data from cities thinking about AB&B.  Taking the role of traditional data collection exercises.  So ABNB having a lot of information on what units are available, prices of units, things like that.  What is the role for government with platforms collecting, perhaps owning, governing data in a way that this was government data before.  So broadly, what is the role for government in a changing economy with a data belonging to private actors.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you.  Who would like to take the question?  Sunil?

>> SUNIL JOHAL: I think when this all started a few years ago, people were hopeful that governments could work with these firms and there could be data sharing agreements and that we would be entering this wonderful new world of partnership.  But I think we're starting to see with examples like Boston with the highly (?) partnership they had on data sharing with Uber.  The city thought they would be getting a lot more trip level data from Uber, that did not turn out to be the case.  Uber argued a lot of this is commercially sensitive.  We're not going share it with you.  Airbnb is having some of the same challenges in other cities as well.

I don't think we can enter a world where the government, we'll trust you with the platforms and data and we'll see what you send us when we request it.  Governors are going to be able to need to play an auditor, a spot check role in this world.  That means have governments have to have pathways to see what this data is.  They have to have the people who can analyze and understand this data.  In most jurisdictions, you don't have that skill set, that culture shift yet, where we're going to have to be data proficient organizations, much like companies like Google or Microsoft or Uber or Amazon are.

And I think the gap between the reality and where we need to get to, has led to a number of situations where we've got very serious public policy concerns and gaps that we're going to have to bridge very quickly.  As that divide gets bigger and bigger, it becomes harder and harder for governments to catch up.  I think governments need to play an active role challenging and working with these firms.  They can't just take their word for what they say.

>> I actually want to add another question to your question.  Which is it's not just about government; it's also about the workers.  These platforms don't even share the data with the workers who work on them.  They don't even share adequate data for the workers who work on them to make good choices about the work that they're going to do.

And I'm not sure how we get around that, but it's a real problem.  One idea we've been having, we started applying it to mechanical tech.  And I don't know whether it's possible to apply to Uber.  Is whether you have a community approach, so each user of each app or technology (?) their own data and then collectively shares it.  Then that will create a picture of the data on the app.  Even if it's only people who are taking part to give a more collective approach to give the workers more understanding of what going on and more power.

That's one possible way we can do it.  That's a sort of circumventing the platforms other than working with them.

>> Jacki, that's a very good point.  Just to add to that, I think there's another angle which is sort of a cross platform data sharing.  If you think about the data being owned by the platform, many of these workers work on multiple platforms, and they want to move to higher-end platforms.  But once they leave this platform, they can't carry, essentially their resumes.  Which is ridiculous.  In the real world we can put our work experience on a piece of paper.  There are ways to check that by calling.

In this world there's no way once you move to another platform to prove what you did on a previous platform.  So they're going to have to create a new portfolio.  And the portfolio matters.  It's got your recommendations and 1- 5 ranking and so on.  So that's another issue, where the platforms should have a way of the worker taking his data and moving to another platform.

>> Thank you.  I think that's a very important question and I think parallel to this work you've been doing, we've actually been looking at data protection and the context of open data and open government kind of regime.  It's hard to talk about governments across Africa, because that's certainly difficult.  But we are seeing certain governments willing to make a stand.  We have to move into a whole new sort of Publix statistics environment about what are actually, not actually private data, but actually public data, that private companies are using.

And sort of flip it around a bit and make those companies responsible.  It doesn't have to be this or last week's data, but data that could be used for public planning and public policy.  Which is in fact, far more valuable than the (?) work that has been done or various other things.  Trying to get taxation from those companies and, et cetera.

I think debates, which certain governments are willing to have and certain platforms are desperate to continue to operate in.  South Africa, Nigeria, there have been discussions about what these platforms are willing to catch and locally build data warehouses.

Open data and contribution to public statistics and public policy can be done.  But we have to approach it rather than a sort of purely kind of fixing, which is difficult to enforce.  So in discussions around taxation, you also are saying well, you're going to formalize the taxation process, across border taxation stuff.  But at the same time, this is the data regime that is going to accompany it.  Move it from the purely individual data protection, individual kind of data protection issues to the use of data for public policy.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you.  We have several questions, but I wanted to introduce another panelist who was braving the snow out and able to get in.  It's a very important perspective because it's the perspective from the lawyers.  We have Valerio DeStefano from the University of

>> VALERIO DESTEFANO: Thank you so much.  (?) discuss a perspective from a lawyer and from a labor lawyer.  I think that when we face the issue of platform work from the labor perspective.  Even fight to convince people that we actually talking about work.

Many cases, people think it's just activities that persons do just for pleasure, just to moonlight or any way, as a way that it's really just a way of earning some extra money when you have time.

Actually, of course, this is not true.  The data show us that people work on the platforms to get essential parts of their income.  And therefore, there is a piece of rhetoric to be debunked.

And the other very big piece that needs to be debunked from the label is that all these platforms work with an independent contractor model.  Of course, all the platforms say that the workers on the platforms are independent contractors.  They are self-employed persons, and so they are not necessarily covered by employment law protection and labor law protection.

But this is actually a very misleading picture.  In many cases the platform, Uber, but also the Amazon and all these kind of digital economy platforms (?) in the way the work is performed.  The standard they impose on the people that need to work on the platforms.  And the rating systems that basically transforms every customer into sort of middle manager for the platform.

Is the way of accessing managerial prerogatives on the workers.  And this is actually very clearly observed by the employment tribune in London, basically where the tribunal recognized that Uber drivers are workers under UK law, and one of the big elements that the tribunal gave value on was actually that with the rating system, with the control you have, with the GPS, platforms align, take screen shots of your work to show the clients that you're actually working, during the time you're billing them, et cetera.

There's many ways of accessing control and hierarchy on the platforms.  That shouldn't be underestimated.

So another thing that we shouldn't forget is that many cases, these workers are denied the protection with the law choose for them.

If you look at this from the Developing Countries' perspective, of course, for many workers, it's great to be on the platforms and be paid certain amount of money in Developing Countries, can be also convenient.  But on the other end, the risk is that actually, we are just exploiting again, the workers.  Because basically we are using the platforms to outsource cheap labor outside the scope of application of our minimum wage laws, of our protection laws.  And this is not even necessarily good for formalization or casualization, because normally the platforms don't share the data about the transaction with the Social Security authorities, the tax authorities.

So from the iLaw, basically, mechanical workers, only 10% of them told us they were contributing to any form of Social Security.

I think I'm running out of time.  Just one more second.

There's another thing that I think we should debunk, and it's the rhetoric that (?) person excluded from the scope of labor law and labor protection.

Actually, and particularly for the workers who work offline, self-employed persons do have (?) cover self-employed persons.  And therefore -- but the issue is that the people don't even know that, and in many cases if they are self-employed, they may be prevented from organizing from antitrust.  This is more of an industrialized problem than a Developing Countries' problem, probably.  But this is another issue that should be very carefully thought.  There are some from the labor rights that apply to all workers irrespective of employment status.  So the fact that people are working on the platform is not an excuse to deprive them of these kind of protections.  Thank you.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you for this important perspective, Valerio, legal perspective on this issue.  I want to resume the questions.

I think you have a question, sir?

>> AUDIENCE: I'm Norman from Germany, development (?)

Fascinating work.  I think it's extremely important.  Kind of two points.  What I want to say.  One is kind of we see that the discussion kind of is very little contextualized.

It is a difference to talk about the gig economy from a European perspective than from a West African or kind of a development or (?) perspective.  They often receive a transfer of the discourse from the global north, the global south, and I think there's a particular danger in that.

My question, would be because we are kind of challenged by it, do we need to start protecting workers in dig economy.

Or do we need to see what are the potentials of the gig economy for employment.

It did turn out we are talking about context that are marked by informality.  We know that kind of (?) is based on sharing itself.

Maybe we can use it to implement Social Security that are not there yet.  But obviously that would again be a different set of actions.

We're kind of biased in a sense of where to start.  We know it shouldn't just be the platform operators that have the power to change or assign public policy.  But where to start, more the protectionist part or kind of finding or translating it to these particular contexts?

>> HELANI GALPAYA: I'll give you a very brief answer from my perspective.  So I think labor rights protections in a country like India could be a problem.  Because there are many jobs if you work for a large organization the labor (?) is very good.  But the informal market.  Not using technology, have very little protection.  There's very little support there.

So I think one of the things that we can do, which is a hard task to do, but one of the things we can do is we can think about lobbying the platforms to start including work practices in their design.  This would necessary make the platform better for the workers.

A lot of the inequality and problems that come outcome from the design of the platforms.  They just don't take into account the workers.

I think a lot of that comes from the people who make the platforms.  They just haven't really thought about it.  They're often tech companies from Silicon Valley and places like that.

We just haven't thought about the people.  If they do think about the people, they think about (?), not the people working on it.  And I think there's a lot to be said, for if we change that adversarial relationship where they're spending more and more time and more and more money trying to control their workers.

You just end up in an escalation like this because you have the platform against the workers.  A more obvious approach is to design your platform to support your workers as well as to make the software, and that way everyone is much better off.

That's perhaps a little idealistic.  But the other thing we can do is encourage more social platforms.  There are social platforms such as blow horn, which is small, an Indian company that puts small van drives, drivers of three-wheel van in touch with customers.  They have a social agenda.  So as well as doing this gig economy thing, they have a social agenda.  It doesn't have to be platforms have to be these particularly bad organizations who don't care about their workers.  We can design more social platforms.

I have a certain amount of hope, but I'm not sure where we need to go.  I'm not sure if legislation is the way, though it certainly can help in some countries.  I think there's a lot of room for lobbying the platforms and trying to change their perspective and understand their get better work by supporting your workers.

>> I agree with that last statement.  And I think we need solutions.  I'm not very convinced government is necessarily the party that can provide solutions.  And whether we, in some cases we may not want to bring them in.  We're talking about taking a whole set of informal workers and bringing them somehow into the formal economy.  And the automatic assumption is that's going to bring a set of benefits which exist.

And I think that assumption should be questioned in most Developing Countries.  What these workers feel suddenly, we're going to create a new tax base by bringing them into a formal economy.  Without giving them in return the necessary benefits like social safety nets and so on.  I think if we could work with a range of actors including platforms and private sector to create contributory (?) teams for our people, I think that's very important.  Government certainly can play a role.

The other big thing is knowledge and skill.  So these people, a lot of them who earn, managing that sort of highly variable income is a skill, and it's a skill they don't have.  What should they put the money in?  Because once you start making above bare bones existence money, there is question what do I put the money into.  Other than the consumption for my family.  Some actually make more than for consumption.  So that is a skill, awareness thing.  Role of recognizing the income can category by the state banks and so on in terms of formality.  But if this is another way the government will increase their tax revenue without providing benefits to workers, I just take a lot of caution on that action.

>> Thank you.  I was going to say the same thing in the sense that I know from our other SME and informal sector work, there's a lot of pushback against multilateral agencies, banks to draw people into the formal sector.

So there's very active, possible work activity taking place, very comfortably.  With high levels of informality, and they want to keep it like that.  And again, depends on which governments, and it's variable across the different countries.  But I do think, (?) purchase on a national level and in terms of existing labor practice and industrial norms, et cetera.  For example, in South Africa, there would be a very strong case to build some transparency into these areas.  Platforms.  And to hold to some sort of minimal standard.  Even if people were below sort of tax levels, et cetera, which they might well want to remain behind.

But I do think it's the responsibility of the state to ensure that the levels of exploitation from current microwork practice -- so the idea that we should just allow this opportunity for this actually mopping up some unemployment is not what we're seeing in the data from Africa.  What we're seeing is the amplification, the mirroring and amplification of existing levels of exploitation of labor.

And primarily, predominantly.  I think there is a role for the state to require levels of transparency, et cetera, and then work for the platforms to do so from a worker's view, from a worker's awareness point of view, in terms of the national role in that country.

>> I just want to add, (?) on that paper, looking over there and had some comments earlier.  But (?)

>> So yes.  I actually think that regulation is not optional.  Employment regulation is not optional.  Not just do we want to apply it or not.  If you are in the scope of regulation, then regulation should be at line.

And the fact that there's a platform doesn't change anything.  A platform is a normal business, and (?) in a certain way, they should be subject to the same rules that other business are subject to.

Anyone can claim I'm new and not apply labor protection.  Of course this is -- for platforms, so vastly the (?) that you can't give a single answer to the issues.  They be covered for instance, by employment regulation, et cetera.  Some of them should.  Some of them actually use managerial prerogatives, normal prerogatives of employers some of them not.

They don't.  And in those cases you may want to try to understand what can you do to them.  Any way to better the conditions where the workers were involved, et cetera.  I actually don't think that we are bringing anyway one into the formal economy for the moment with the platforms.

With the huge influx of employment status, actually is behind platform work.  Basically are forced to (?) these classifications rather than the other way around.  I think this is a very urgent thing to consider.

It doesn't change the fact that regulations should be applied.  Doesn't change because of technology and stuff like that.

This was never the point.  And at the moment, regulation could even help to incentivize, to better the inefficiency on the platforms.  Because as what was rightly said, most of the time they don't care about the platforms for the workers, because they don't have any incentive to do so.  So regulation can provide incentive to actually better the organization of the platform.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you.

>> PARICIPANT: Can you hear me?  It's working?  I totally agree with what Alison said and what was said before.  Really, there is first, the sensibility on the general labor market and the facts that the states should be really responsible for their basic rights of workers in the country.

But there is also the responsibility from platforms in regards to their own social agenda, and to apply their own rules like minimum wages and such rules.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you.  So we have several more questions.  Before we do that, I want to just point out that we published a small booklet on this issue, which we have a limited amount of physical copies.  But if you go to the website which is displayed here, FOWIGS.net, which is future of work in the global south.  FOWIGS.net. You'll find all of the chapters from this book, to which many of our panelists have collaborated.

This is part of an initiative funded by the International Development Research Center, IDRC from Canada, and we hope this is just the beginning of many other research initiatives and publications as well.

If you are interested in the copies of this booklet, we have very limited amount of physical copies, but it's all downloadable on this website.  So with that, I want to give the opportunity for a few more questions.  Yes.

>> PARTICIPANT: Thank you very much, Chair.  Captain Katar from Ministry of ICT in Kenya.  In the developed world, you have a contract team population of young people.  You have the social safety nets in place and the resources to fund them.  And you own the technology.  So even as (?) from it.

In the developing world, we have an expanding youth population.  We have very few social safety nets.  Neither do we have the resources to support them.  And buy the technology.

So it's a cost center, not a profit center.  And even these platforms (?) the sharing lobby is not -- I mean it's quite high.  Things like Uber and so on.

Now somebody said we shouldn't be looking to governance.  I come from governance, so I'm not allowed to believe that.  So what can we do?

At the top end, we can protect workers by excluding the technologies, but I think that becomes less and less possible at the time.  Or maybe we can encourage platforms with a social agenda.  Still, those are usually just a very small percentage of the available options.

Or we can complete using local technologies, which is also happening.  Where instead of using the expensive international platform, we developed a local one of our own.

I'm sorry I came in a bit late.  Maybe somebody talked about it.  Is what are the new types of human-centered jobs.  Either which ones should be encouraging for our young population.  Or is anybody conceptualizing any jobs, many of which will not even be technology oriented, which are good for human beings to do?

And I do need a copy of that book, because I've been asked to solve this problem in my country.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you.  After this panel, you will solve the problem (?)

>> Thank you very much.  In terms of emerging technologies not really happening in the developing world.  I can say that's not the case, at least in India, in terms of technology being developed here.  If you look at any leading e-commerce companies, in terms of economic platforms.  Most of them are homegrown, but the business models are copied from the West, but it's homegrown.  The money stays inside.

Technology stays inside.  Probably you can look at them.

>> I'm not sure, because before you came in, because what I did mention about the microwork studies we've done, including in Kenya is a lot of the microwork was the accessing of the digital platforms was in order to do traditional manual labor.  I think that goes to the point that was made earlier about the impacts of the so-called -- or historically called third industrial revolution.  We aren't even in the third industrial revolution in Africa.  So we don't have the automation or industrialization that would be affected by automation.  Study recently completed by the world economic forum on the impacts of the third industrial revolution, indicates the impact is on the middle level.  So whether automation would happen wound the manufacturing, et cetera.  The high level creative work is not impacted and the low level manual work is not impacted.

Africa, if I can generalize across the continent, may actually be less affected than the highly industrialized countries and immediately.  And of course, there are a whole lot of other negative characteristics of that around the big data and artificial intelligence that is accompanying those processes.

Because all the machine learning that's going on, et cetera is being saved with data from mature markets and mature economies.  And so the actual machine learning, and that is actually beginning algorithms and stuff, information, that is going to be extremely difficult to correct over time.  Because we simply can't feed in enough information from developing market to build machines to learn (?) data.  It's reflecting in simple things, like equipment made to recognize people's hands to wash, something like that.  And it's not recognizing black hands, for example.

And various other algorithms, that there's simply not enough data being generated from Africa to benefit from these machine learning integrations that are happening.

So I think there's lots of layers to complexity to that.  But what we're seeing at the moment is the use of these digital platforms for very traditional piecemeal work.  And that could change in time and local technologies can change that, and the use of local technologies.  I think has been most successful around that kind of traditional manual work like driving, et cetera using local platforms instead of Uber, et cetera.  Which have a lot of benefits to increase transparency or labor conditions or minimum wages, et cetera.  If it's a local platform.

>> What can governments do?  I can say three things.  One is yes, absolutely, put the pressure on platforms for better work conditions and governments do have a role to play.  But if your countries is an outlier where you're asking for protections not given to many others, the work will move elsewhere.  So you need to keep this in mind in a global labor market mediated by a platform.  There is a risks, but we need to put pressure on platforms.  Second, do your own work on platforms.  India is doing this to digitize government records they need digitized and they're looking at as a form, sort of the equivalent of the rural employment scheme.  Which gave people a guaranteed number of hours.  In the digital world for slightly digitally skilled workers to sit and digitize scanned government documents, which is a part of this whole eGovernment open data initiative.  You can do that.

No. 3, encourage your local markets.  That is the only one you can effectively regulate.  Get the big companies in India, Shrilanka to put out work, instead of trying to hire (?) people.  Governments agree they need more flexible, less friction labor markets.  Encourage the local market.  Part of India's advantage is there's such a large number of companies, putting gigs on the flat forms which Indian workers are working.  For that you can create a separate platform.  Create the local market for this.

>> CHAIRMAN: Thank you.  Unfortunately we have run out of time.  There's a session coming up here in a few short minutes.  I want to thank all the panelists.  Thank you for joining.

(Applause)

(Session concluded at 11:43 a.m.)

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 411