Highlighting emerging practices to improve access and working conditions in digital labour platforms

ILO and UNDP jointly hosted the fourth installment of the Learning Lab Series, focusing on good practices by digital labour platforms that enhance inclusion and provide labour protections for both refugees and host communities.

News | 23 October 2023
Geneva, Switzerland (ILO News) – Amidst the vast potential digital labour platforms offer for job creation across various sectors, their evolution engenders challenges in achieving fair and decent work. Realizing the need to learn and disseminate the emerging practices addressing gaps in access and working conditions within platform-based work, including for refugees and host communities, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) jointly hosted the fourth edition of the ongoing Learning Lab series to discuss some of these practices in platform work.

“Given the growing need to promote decent work in digital labour platforms, it is increasingly important to know what works, why it works and for whom it works,” explained Zulum Avila, ILO Specialist in Employment Strategies in the Digital Economy. She also stressed the significance of identifying these practices, citing their potential to address income disparities, enhance digital skills, and improve social inclusion and protection. Carlo Ruiz, Global Policy Advisor on Economic Recovery at UNDP, added, “This endeavor has the potential to inspire not only governments on how they can cultivate an enabling environment, but also the private sector and other organizations in the ecosystem that are involved in promoting digital work opportunities for forcibly displaced and host communities.”

In a collaborative research effort between UNDP, ILO and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, four distinct categories of emerging practices have been identified. They encompass facilitating access to job opportunities, mitigating work-related risks and costs, enhancing work quality, and fostering digital skilling and upskilling. Jared Bissinger, a Consultant for ILO and UNDP, explained “Emerging practices are new interventions that have not had sufficient time to generate solid results but offer some level of evidence in promoting inclusion and improving working conditions. Understanding and documenting these efforts is important because they can inform policy making and regulation”. These practices also offer valuable insights for governments, the private sector, NGOs, and other organizations seeking to promote fair working conditions, including for refugees.

The Freelancing Working Platform Dukkan, an initiative by UNDP, is one clear example of such emerging practices. This platform was designed for displaced individuals, especially Syrian refugees temporarily residing in Turkiye. The goal of Dukkan is to enable refugees to access income, purpose, and dignity. Leveraging the robust Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills of young Syrians and Turks, the platform bridges a crucial talent gap by connecting them with SMEs and other clients seeking services in Arabic and Turkish languages. Ece Beyazit Ozalp, working for UNDP Turkiye as Manager of the Dukkan freelancing platform, shared noteworthy practices including using the national minimum wage as a compensation benchmark for freelancers, adopting an exploitation prevention policy, and providing opportunities for freelancers to further build their digital and managerial skills. Moreover, Dukkan is committed to expanding the platform to create inclusive opportunities for disadvantaged groups, such as women, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.

Organizations recognize the significant potential of refugees in contributing to digital platform businesses, adopting measures to eliminate access barriers for forcibly displaced and host communities. Giselle Gonzales, former Sr. Program Manager at Amazon Sustainability and Amazon Web Service, initiated a project that outsourced work to refugees in Kenya. Recently, she launched EqualReach to expand the potential of outsourced work started at Amazon, capitalizing on the availability of refugees seeking employment. NaTakallam, on the other hand, supports refugees in working as freelancing tutors, teachers, translators, and cultural exchange partners. Aline Sara, CEO and Co-Founder of NaTakallam, shared “We paired refugees, host community members, and individuals from conflict zones with certified translators from global markets to undertake translation projects. This significantly increased both the number of refugees gaining access to income opportunities and the overall productivity of work.”
Nuba Elamin, Program Manager at Jobtech Alliance, highlighted that platforms show enthusiasm for including refugees, when they realize that refugees are also potential clients.  Elamin's project in Uganda, Jobtech for Refugees, worked with Jumia, an e-commerce platform in Africa, in integrating refugees into their sales model to position their brand in refugee locations.

Partnerships are a common thread in these emerging practices. “The focus on refugees was also the goal for Amazon,” explained Gonzales. She shared “Amazon partnered with different platforms to develop a model that surpasses legal standards with additional fair work criteria. Refugees engaged in this arrangement earn wages that are four to six times higher than the highest-paying jobs within the refugee camps.” She declared that providing work opportunities to refugees not only generates social impact but also delivers tangible business value, offering a sustainable approach that transcends mere social-oriented initiatives.

These organizations have adopted various measures to promote inclusive and decent work for forcibly displaced and host communities. The Learning Lab highlighted emerging practices that can inspire and guide other digital labour platforms to promote decent work for forcibly displaced and host communities. Experts participating in this discussion recognized that partnerships among various stakeholders in the digital platform ecosystem are crucial for fostering equitable and inclusive practices within the platform economy.

The next Learning Lab session will explore how artificial intelligence is changing employment and whether this new technology is amplifying the digital divide or can help to address it.

Did you miss the Learning Lab? Watch - Recording of the third Learning Lab session

This event was supported by the PROSPECTS Opportunity Fund project on the Promotion, inclusion and protection of refugees and host communities in the gig economy, with the generous funding of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.