UN Labor Agency Calls for New Policy Measures for Digital Economy
2021-04-28 Xinhua

GENEVA, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The International Labor Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday that the rapid growth of the digital economy around the world is calling for a coherent policy response to ensure that the technology gap and inequalities are not widening.

According to the ILO's latest "World Employment and Social Outlook 2021" report, digital labor platforms have increased five-fold worldwide in the last decade, presenting both opportunities as well as challenges for workers and businesses and a need for international policy dialogue.

"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," said the Geneva-based UN agency in a press release.

The report focuses on two main types of digital labor platform: online web-based platforms, where tasks are performed online and remotely by workers, and location-based platforms, where tasks are performed at a specified physical location by individuals, such as taxi drivers and delivery workers.

"Digital labor platforms are opening up opportunities that did not exist before, particularly for women, young people, persons with disabilities and marginalized groups in all parts of the world. That must be welcomed," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

"The new challenges they present can be met through global social dialogue so that workers, employers and governments can fully and equally benefit from these advances. All workers, regardless of employment status, need to be able to exercise their fundamental rights at work."

New challenges for platform workers relate to tough working conditions, the irregularity of work and income, and the lack of access to social protection, the ILO said, while businesses are faced with unfair competition, non-transparency with regard to data and pricing, and high commission fees.

The findings are based on surveys and interviews with some 12,000 workers and representatives of 85 businesses around the world in multiple sectors.

The report also stressed that the costs and benefits of digital platforms are not shared equally across the world:

"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," it continued.

The ILO said that international policy dialogue and coordination was urgently needed to ensure regulatory certainty and the application of international labor standards.

The report offered several recommendations, such as the classification of workers' employment status, transparency and accountability of algorithms for workers and businesses, adequate social security benefits and access to legal courts.