New rating system highlights best and worst digital platforms for workers’ conditions | University of Oxford
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New rating system highlights best and worst digital platforms for workers’ conditions

University of Oxford academics have published the world’s first-ever rating system for working conditions in the digital economy.

The rankings look at how platforms like Uber, Taxify and Ola perform against five standards - fair work, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation. These include whether a company pays the minimum wage and ensures the health and safety of its workers.

Professor Mark Graham, Professor of Internet Geography at the University of Oxford, said: “The Fairwork rating system shines a light on best and worst practice in the platform economy. This is an area in which for too long, very few regulations have been in place to protect workers. These ratings will enable consumers to make informed choices about the platforms and services they need when ordering a cab, a takeaway or outsourcing a simple task.

“Our hope is that our five areas of fairness will take a life of their own, and that workers, platforms and other advocates will start using them to improve the working conditions across the platform economy.”

The Fairwork project, part of the Oxford Internet Institute, has already led to positive impacts in South Africa and India, the two countries where the rating system has been piloted. In India, discussions are ongoing with platforms about implementing changes in line with the Fairwork principles. The first-year ranking shows the overwhelming majority of India’s platform workers are engaged on platforms that score below Fairwork’s basic standards, with scores under 5/10.

This affects over a million workers in India. For example, one of the platforms in discussions about future improvements has 450,000 workers.

After collaborating with Fairwork, the South African platform Bottles has committed to supporting the emergence of fair workers' representation on its platform, free from company interference.

In discussion with Fairwork, the NoSweat platform has introduced significant changes in all five areas of fairness. It now has a formal policy to pay over the South African minimum wage after workers’ costs are taken into account, and it has a clear process to ensure clients on the platform agree to protect workers’ health and safety and for workers to lodge grievance about conditions.

Wilfred Greyling, co-founder of NoSweat said: "NoSweat Work believes firmly in a fair deal for all parties involved in any work we put out. Fairwork has helped us formalise those principles and incorporate them into our systems. The NoSweat Work platform is built on people and relationships; we never hide behind faceless technology.”

The ratings will be updated on a yearly basis, with the United Kingdom and Germany to be added to the next set of rankings.

The research project was carried out in collaboration with International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B), the University of Cape Town, the University of Manchester, and the University of the Western Cape.