The Fairwork Project has launched its third round of yearly ratings for digital platforms in South Africa, highlighting the precarious nature of work in the gig economy.
Fairwork is a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the University of Cape Town and other education instutions which is committed to highlighting best and worst practices in the emerging gig economy.
The report shows that the impact of the pandemic has been felt disproportionately by those who work outside of formal employment, particularly the rising number of workers who rely on gig platforms for income.
“Work in the gig economy is often unsafe and insecure. Workers lack protections afforded to regular employees and are vulnerable to unfair practices like arbitrary termination, often based on inequitable regimes of customer ratings.
“It is important to understand and highlight unfair labour practices in the gig economy, and to assist workers, consumers and regulators as they hold platforms to account,” said Professor Jean-Paul van Belle of the Department of Information Systems at the University of Cape Town.
To understand the state of gig work in South Africa, Fairwork assessed twelve of the country’s largest digital labour platforms against five principles of fairness: fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation – giving each a fairness rating out of ten.
GetTOD leads the 2021 table with nine points. Developed in Cape Town, the app allows users to book trusted trade suppliers in their local areas – such as electricians, plumbers, and locksmiths – in real-time.
The group scored highly across all five metrics, including minimum pay, fair contracts, fair conditions and anti-discrimination rules.
Part-time job provider M4Jam, domestic worker service SweepSouth, and freelance work provider NoSweat also scored highly and are tied in second place with eight out of ten points.
The data shows that some of South Africa’s gig economy jobs – including Bolt and Uber – fell short on a number of key metrics.
Both companies failed to pay the average minimum wage, don’t have clear terms and conditions, and lack freedom of association and worker voice mechanisms.
Bolt was further marked down for not having due processes for decisions affecting work and not having enough anti-discrimination processes in place.
A breakdown of the biggest companies are provided in more detail below. the full rankings can be found here.
The research also found that almost all platforms operating in South Africa pay at least the minimum wage.
However, when workers’ expenses (such as petrol, transport costs and waiting times) were taken into account, evidence could only be found that six out of the eleven platforms paid workers above the minimum wage.
Only three of the platforms included in the ranking demonstrated evidence of workers earning above the current living wage of R41/hour.
Growing numbers of South Africans find work in the gig economy, and digital platforms are frequently heralded as a solution to mass unemployment.
However, the employment challenge facing South Africa is not simply the quantity of jobs but also the quality of jobs being created.
“Decent work and job creation are not mutually exclusive. This is why, by bringing workers and other stakeholders to the table, Fairwork is developing an enforceable code of basic worker rights that are compatible with sustainable business models”, said Dr Kelle Howson, Oxford Internet Institute Researcher.