Image credits: Rowan Freeman on Unsplash
News Article

Better Regulation Needed for Online Workers

By Rodrigo Brugada | Fri, 06/18/2021 - 18:13

CEPAL and ILO released a joint report detailing how labor dynamics and employment have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on digital platform workers. 


The pandemic harmed labor markets throughout Latin America, resulting in an economic contraction of 7.1 percent. According to the document "Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean," the loss and precarization of jobs, the increase in unemployment, the abrupt decrease in labor participation and the effects on women's employment and participation, among others, present short and medium-term challenges for a gradual transition to the post-pandemic period. It is worth mentioning that these effects were unequal, tending to affect predominantly women and people working in the informal sector.


Informal employment suffered a stronger impact because formal employment benefited to a larger extent from public policies aimed to protect labor. Moreover, the professions that saw  greater job destruction were those mainly occupied by women, such as domestic service and unpaid family work. This caused a loss of employment in one out of five female workers in these categories.


Although the impact of confinement measures was more significant in informal employment, the deconfinement process is leading to a relatively faster recovery. The closure of companies caused by the economic crisis that resulted from the pandemic led to job losses for one out of every ten employees in the region. And, while in past crises self-employment partially compensated for the loss of salaried work, the destruction of non-salaried work was proportionally more significant during the current health crisis. In other words, non-salaried employment did not serve as a buffer for the loss of salaried jobs. In Mexico, informal employees represented 55.6 percent of the 54.8 million workers, reports INEGI.


The adverse effects of the pandemic were most profoundly felt in economic sectors most affected by the decline in economic activity and the confinement measures. These sectors were hospitality, which saw a reduction of 19.2 percent, construction with a decrease of 11.7 percent, trade with a decrease of 10.8 percent and transportation with a decrease of 9.2 percent. This impact highlights the difficulties that the post-pandemic transition will imply for the recovery of employment in these sectors.


The paper also looks at the employment landscape across digital platforms. While there is a high degree of heterogeneity in the working conditions of digital platform workers, in general, this modality of work is characterized by a high degree of non-compliance with decent work criteria: it presents instability of employment 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.


During the pandemic, this work involves elevated health risks. Although their role was considered essential to reduce the risk of contagion of the general population, there were variations in the health protection measures on taken by the platforms. In some cases, workers had to bear the costs of protective measures.


The report urges the adjustment of social and labor regulation to adequately fulfill its dual function of protecting workers’ social and labor rights. One problem encountered is that the modalities of work on platforms present atypical characteristics, which do not necessarily have a regulatory framework. At the center of the debate is whether this type of work is fundamentally salaried work, self-employment or a new category not covered by the regulations.  The report concludes by urging each country to establish regulations for this type of work that protect workers' social and labor rights.


The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Rodrigo Brugada Rodrigo Brugada Journalist & Industry Analyst