Ridesharing and food delivery platforms have grown rapidly in the country in recent times, engaging millions of the unemployed in income-generating activities. But new research from Fairwork Bangladesh, a collaboration between DataSense and the University of Oxford, has found that workers at these platforms often face low wages, risky conditions and exploitation.
According to the report released on Wednesday, 10 of the most popular concert-saving platforms in Bangladesh, including Pathao, Uber and Food Panda, have been assessed for the fairness with which they treat workers and none of them have ‘received more than one in ten points. .
The odd-job economy refers to a free market system where short-term, flexible work is prevalent, and companies frequently hire independent contractors, project-based workers, and freelancers rather than full-time employees. .
The study finds that six out of 10 companies – Car Bangla, Hungrynayki, Obhai, Shohoz Foods, Truck Lagbe and Uber – failed to prove that they met one of the minimum fair labor standards, such as Guarantee that all workers earn more than the minimum wage. national minimum wage.
In fact, the report finds that a proportion of workers are in debt on the platform, which means their costs exceed the income they receive from the platform. Going through middlemen, the platform’s high commissions and maintenance costs, and the platform’s lack of accountability were the biggest factors that drove workers into debt.
This is the first such study in Bangladesh, noting companies on labor standards such as pay, terms, contracts, management and representation.
Dr Murali Shanmugavelan, Principal Investigator at Fairwork Bangladesh, said: “For the first time, we looked at companies offering ridesharing and delivery services to rate them on how they treat their workers. This provides a useful guide for both regulators and the clients who use them. platforms. “
The new report, “Fairwork Bangladesh ratings 2021: Labor standards in the gig economy”, is co-authored by Ananya Raihan, Murali Shanmugavelan, Sayema Haque Bidisha, Anita Ghazi, Tasnim Muhammad Mustaque, Sabrina Mustabin Jaigirdar, Raiyaan Mahbub, Matthew Cole and Marc Graham. It was funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Co-author Dr Ananya Raihan said, “The study actually revealed how the rigs lacked sight in caring for the rig workers. I think the next year the platform scores should improve dramatically by taking the appropriate action. We look forward to working together on this topic. “
Publishing the study, researchers at DataSense and the Oxford Internet Institute called for tighter protections and more robust labor standards in Bangladesh’s platform economy.
Speaking at the virtual report launch event on Wednesday, Sayema Haque Bidisha, co-author of the study and professor of economics at Dhaka University, said that the small economy jobs is a potential sector in Bangladesh because it is flexible and dynamic. As there is a lack of diversification in terms of labor-intensive industrialization in the country, concert-based activities can serve as a crucial means to create employment opportunities here, he said. she observed.
But there are also challenges, especially given its informal nature, Bidisha pointed out.
Such platforms involve multiple stakeholders, which is why their operations sometimes become difficult, she said, adding that a lack of information, oversight and regulatory framework, internet connectivity, are issues. major challenges for the economy of odd jobs.
In another presentation, Sabrina Mustabin Jaigirdar, head of research at DataSense, said that the freelance segment of Bangladesh’s platform-based concert economy which started traveling in 2016 with the arrival of ‘Uber has some 5,000,000 active workers and around 3,000,000 of them are hired. in location-based concert work.
The current size of the rideshare industry in Bangladesh is $ 259 million, which is expected to grow to $ 1 billion in the next five to seven years, she said. Concert workers fall under the definition of worker as defined in Bangladesh’s labor law, she added.
Lawyer Anita Ghazi Rahman, president of iSocial, stressed the need to formulate an appropriate policy framework to ensure the protection of concert workers.
Inam Ahmed, editor-in-chief of The Business Standard moderated the program.
Addressing the event, Maksudul Islam, Director of Public Affairs at Foodpanda, acknowledged that platforms in the concert economy, especially in the ridesharing and food delivery segments, fail to properly guarantee fairness standards for their workers as these are growing sectors.
Noting that a food delivery man can earn Tk 15,000-20,000 per month working normal hours, he said this figure is almost double that earned by a garment worker. He said, however, that they should work to ensure that workers’ incomes increase.
Belal Ahmed, general secretary of the Dhaka Carpool Drivers Union, highlighted several issues: excessive commissions for service providers, lack of workplace safety, infringement of workers’ rights and lack of insurance for workers.
He called for appropriate policy formulation to streamline the carpooling industry in the country. He also called for making carpoolers aware of the odd-job economy and the relevant laws.
Professor Mark Graham, Professor of Internet Geography at the Oxford Internet Institute and Director of Fairwork, said: “The low scores of many popular platforms in the Fairwork Bangladesh rankings demonstrate the need for regulatory intervention to ensure that concert workers no longer fall through the cracks. , further exacerbated by the pandemic.
“As part of our vision for a fairer future of work, we are charting a path to achieve this ambition through the launch of the Fairwork Pledge. work becomes a reality for all workers on the platform. “
This latest report builds on the findings of previous Fairwork Country Assessment Reports for India, UK, Germany, South Africa, Chile, Ghana and Ecuador. The Fairwork team has also published reports on the impact of Covid-19 and the economy of concerts.