Technology and Human Rights: Gig Economy

Technology has driven the emergence of the gig economy, creating more seemingly flexible opportunities for people to earn income, such as through ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, or freelance labour matching platforms such as Taskrabbit. From these new business models have emerged unique business relationships which do not often fit traditional labour frameworks. For example, workers with tasks that resemble those of regular employees’ may be disguised as “self-employed” individuals, “freelancers” or “entrepreneurs” who do not have access to the same rights and benefits legally due to regular employees, including freedom of association and collective bargaining. While providing ease in the delivery of needed services and offering flexible economic opportunities especially to those who are unable to commit to the rigidity of regular employment (such as mothers and homemakers), the gig economy has also presented serious challenges to upholding labour rights by being linked with precarious work, enforced casualisation, uncertain hours, poor pay and involuntary overtime.

This section explores the positive and negative human rights implications associated with the gig economy, as well as the need to re-imagine and transform legal and policy rights protection frameworks in order to keep up with the times.

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Article
23 November 2016

USA: Study finds racial & gender discrimination on gig economy websites TaskRabbit & Fiverr

Author: Joshua Brustein, Bloomberg (USA)

"Studies Show Racial and Gender Discrimination Throughout the Gig Economy", 22 Nov 2016...

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Article
14 February 2017

UK: Gig economy sees rise in precarious work & tax shortfall, Trade Union Congress reports

Author: Trade Union Congress

...The report uses tax and benefit modelling to show the impact of the growth in insecure work since 2006. It shows how the growth of low-paid self-employment and zero-hours contracts has led to a fall in government revenues because: Low-paid self...

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Article
28 March 2017

UK: Deliveroo delivery couriers to challenge status as self-employed contractors to obtain better employment rights

Author: Sarah Butler, Guardian (UK)

"Deliveroo riders plan legal action over employment rights", 27 Mar 2017...

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Article
12 April 2017

Commentary: A crisis of control: what should the on-demand workforce be demanding?

Author: Alice Martin, Open Democracy (UK)

When it comes to work, the UK is facing a crisis of control. We already feel among the highest sense of job insecurity of any country in Europe and work among the longest hours. Low unemployment figures mask a growing number of people without a regular...

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Article
12 April 2017

Commentary: Same as it ever was? Labour rights and worker organisation in the modern economy

Author: Tom Hunt, Open Democracy (UK)

The ‘gig economy’. Platform-working. On-demand apps and algorithmic monitoring. Outside of some policy, technology and academic circles these terms will draw blank looks from most people. Yet ask people if they have heard of Uber, Deliveroo or...

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Story
12 April 2017

Workers' rights & labour organisation in the gig economy

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Article
13 April 2017

The Gig Economy’s False Promise

Author: The New York Times

"The Gig Economy’s False Promise", 10 Apr 2017...

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Article
18 April 2017

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons

Author: Noah Scheiber, The New York Times

Even as Uber talks up its determination to treat drivers more humanely, it is engaged in an extraordinary behind-the-scenes experiment in behavioral science to manipulate them in the service of its corporate growth…Uber’s innovations reflect the...

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Article
18 April 2017

It’s time to regulate the gig economy

Author: Janine Berg and Valerio De Stefano, Open Democracy

Although it would seem straightforward that the laws protecting workers should also apply to workers in what is described as the ‘gig economy’ or ‘platform-based work’, there is much debate – and confusion – on this issue…Depicting work in the platform...

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Article
22 April 2017

UAE: Uber says drivers not bound to company, allowed to work for other businesses

Author: Arabian Business (UAE)

"Uber says drivers in UAE free to work for anyone ... including Careem", 13 Apr 2017...

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