Promotion, inclusion and protection of refugees and host communities in the gig economy

At a glance

The PROSPECTS Opportunity Fund project “Promotion, inclusion and protection of refugees and host communities in the gig economy” is working at the crossroads of policy-oriented research, advocacy and capacity building to foster meaningful social dialogue and to identify prospects for an inclusive access to decent work pathways in the digital economy, in the context of forced displacement.

Implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency), as part of the Partnership for Improving Prospects for Forcibly Displaced Persons and Host Communities (PROSPECTS) and funded by of the Government of the Netherlands, – the Opportunity Fund project, since January 2022, has been working in eight priority countries that host large numbers of forcibly displaced people: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Sudan and Uganda.

Setting the scene

Digital technologies are transforming entire economic sectors and societies and reinventing business models. The World Bank estimates that the digital economy contributes to more than 15 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), and in the past decade it has been growing 2.5 times faster than the non-digital economy component of GDP.  By the end of 2022, there were an estimated 103 million forcibly displaced people across the world, of which close to 30 million are refugees, many facing difficulties in accessing formal employment.

Still, the currently limited access to jobs in the digital economy and online labour platforms for refugees is the product of a multi-layered divide, where elements of infrastructure, connectivity, regulation and demand for digital skills are closely intertwined. When also backed by the necessary policy and regulatory frameworks and incentives, digital labour platforms and remote work stand to transform how refugees and their hosting communities make a dignified living.

Our motivation

Given the challenges and opportunities presented by global digital transformations and the way they are reshaping the world of work in contexts of forced displacement, the Opportunity Fund project works to promote decent work pathways in the digital economy for refugees and their hosting communities.

Our purpose

A global digital transformation is underway, but its impacts on jobs and skills vary across countries, economic sectors and population segments. The Opportunity Fund project is assessing the overarching policies and regulations in place and their implications on refugees and hosting communities working or seeking work in the digital economy and in the online labour platforms.

Hand-in-hand with governments, online platform operators, business associations, and workers’ organizations, and together with refugees and hosting communities themselves, the Opportunity Fund project aims to improve access to and enhance working conditions on digital labour platforms among forcibly displaced people and their hosting communities.

Nevertheless, a digital divide persists, and is the product of many layers of inequality, including elements of infrastructure, connectivity, skills, socio-economic factors, gender, race and ethnicity, age, disability, health, education, rural residency, and geography.

Tackling holistically the different drivers of the digital divide means setting pathways in motion towards improved access to decent work and digitally enabled jobs.

Moving the needle on decent work in the digital economy

The Opportunity Fund project is working to foster conducive and inclusive national and local employment strategies. It does so by:
  • Advocating for evidence-based policy solutions;
  • Enhancing the capacity of communities and digital economy actors to improve working conditions; and
  • Testing innovative local solutions to build pathways into decent work opportunities and sustainable ways to make a dignified living from these digitally enabled jobs.
In turn, guiding our commitment towards inclusive, decent work in the digital economy are five enabling pillars:
  1. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, Internet and mobile connectivity and digital access
  2. Digital financial inclusion and identification
  3. Legislation and policies governing labour market access, digitally-enabled jobs, and rights at work
  4. Digital skills development and alignment with labour market demand
  5. Cybersafety and prevention and mitigation of digital risks