Offline contexts of online jobs: Platform drivers, decent work, and informality in Lagos, Nigeria
Summary: Motivation: The Sustainable Development Goals targets include decent work for all by 2030 but progress in sub‐Saharan Africa has been slow. Over the past five years, the platform work sector (e‐hailing platforms in particular) has expanded considerably on the continent, providing work opportunities to the growing urban populations. The quality of this work, however, is heavily contested. Purpose: We deepen and extend our understanding of the gig economy in sub‐Saharan Africa and assess its potential for creating decent work. Our unique contribution lies in looking at the gig economy in comparison to the local threshold (the informal economy) as opposed to wage employment. Methods and approach: We first review the literature on the gig economy, the informal sector, and decent work in low‐ and lower‐middle‐income countries. We then draw on a case study of e‐hailing in Lagos, Nigeria, to assess the sector’s potential to create decent work. We discuss our findings against the four pillars of the International Labour Organization’s Decent Work Agenda: productive employment, labour standards, social protection, and social dialogue. Findings: We find that e‐hailing platforms may offer certain gains compared to regular taxiing in the informal sector but these are context‐ and platform‐specific. Examples include access to insurance, credit, and cash transfers. Gig work remains embedded in the informal economy: it is unregulated and does not abide by labour standards nor offer social protections. We also find evidence of well‐organized labour movements. Policy implications: E‐hailing may be productive work, as platform intermediation facilitates outreach and matching, translating into increased wages. This happens with the added cost of longer working hours in the absence of labour standards. We propose exploring the role of digital records kept by platforms (e.g. income volume and regularity, or customer ratings data) to facilitate the progressive transition of transport workers towards formality. We also recommend fostering industry standards (such as fair work certification) to protect workers’ rights.
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