Exploitation of platform workers

In 2020, the Gross Domestic Product of Latin America contracted 7.1 percent and the unemployment rate in the region reached 10.5 percent. The crisis caused by covid-19 had a strong impact, especially on informal employment and caused an increase in work on digital platforms, often in precarious conditions.

This phenomenon was analyzed in the report “Labor Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean”, released by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO). It calculates that in Argentina, Colombia and the Dominican Republic between 0.8 percent and 1.0 percent of the employed they are dedicated to jobs on digital platforms. In Argentina, between 66 and 84 percent of delivery platform workers are recent immigrants. Similarly, in Chile around 70 percent of delivery workers and around 10 percent of drivers linked to platforms are migrants.

In a prolonged period characterized by a weak generation of productive employment (since 2013, salaried employment in the region increased every year at rates lower than those of the expansion of own-account work, and unemployment increased), the “emergence of new Job opportunities are welcome, especially by population groups that face special difficulties in accessing employment and labor income, “the report explains, and then adds that in Argentina 19 percent of the workers interviewed mention this factor as their main advantage.

“Although there is a high degree of heterogeneity in the working conditions of digital platform workers, in general this type of work is characterized by a high non-compliance with decent work criteria: presents instability of work and income, a significant proportion of unpaid time, long working hours and the absence of socio-labor protection, as well as the lack of options for dialogue and representation in the face of a marked imbalance of power between the platform and the worker , and in a sense also between the job seeker and the worker, “the report explains.

Platforms and pandemic

Among the multiple digital platforms, the transport of people and domestic service work in households suffered the lowest due to restrictions on mobility and the general drop in demand. On the other hand, especially purchasing and delivery services registered marked increases in demand, among other reasons due to the closure of restaurants and the self-care of many people who preferred to avoid leaving their home to make purchases.

Even so, many delivery workers suffered an interruption in their activities at some point during the health crisis. In addition, a high percentage of platform workers reported a drop in income. In the case of pay-as-you-go workers, “it may be related to the increase in the number of people who, having lost their jobs in the context of the pandemic, saw in this type of work an option to generate labor income or with the reduction of payments. granted by the platforms. In the case of people transport workers, the loss of income would have been due to the drop in demand, “the study states.

Socio-labor regulation

The increasingly rapid increase in platform employees, together with signs of high precariousness underscore the need to adjust socio-labor regulation, so that it adequately fulfills its dual function of protecting the social and labor rights of workers and contributing to the efficient functioning of labor markets.

The debate on the regulation of work on platforms focuses on the question of whether it is salaried work, as many of the platform workers claim, or self-employment, as stated by the companies that own digital platforms.

Due to the lack of a clear legal answer to this dilemma, there is a high degree of judicializationIn other words, the courts must decide whether a specific case corresponds to salaried work or self-employment. In Latin American countries, different bills have been presented, but there are no important advances with respect to labor legislation and the debate tends to focus on tax regulation issues rather than on labor issues.

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