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There are now over seven million digital ‘platform workers’ that live all over the world, doing work that is outsourced via platforms or apps in the “gig economy”. Lacking the ability to collectively bargain, platform workers have little ability to negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers who are often on the other side of the world. This project undertakes innovative research that focuses on these workers, their experiences, labour processes, and the organisation of their work. The platform economy is rapidly expanding, particularly in developing and emerging economies. With this, the future of work is becoming the present and there is an urgent need to engage with its consequences. Contemporary researchers, as well as existing political and regulative frameworks, lack the appropriate methods and conceptual approaches to make sense of the phenomena.

The main objective of the project is to set up a long-term structure to form a ‘Fairwork Foundation’ that will be committed to highlighting best and worst practices in the emerging platform economy. Selected stakeholders, including governments, platform operators, unions and donors will be consulted to engage in a dialogue to establish the Foundation. Much like the Fairtrade Foundation has been able to certify the production chains of commodities like coffee and chocolate, the Fairwork Foundation will certify the production networks of the platform economy. This seeks to harness ‘consumer power’, along with leverage from workers and platforms, to significantly contribute to the welfare and job quality of digital workers.

The overall aim of the project is to certify three kinds of online platforms: Location specific platforms (Deliveroo, Uber, or TaskRabbit), Microwork (Amazon Mechanical Turk or Crowdflower), and Macrowork / online freelance platforms (Upwork or Freelancer). The initial plan is to draw up an annual ranking within these three types, alongside beginning to certify platforms that achieve minimum ratings.

Follow the project on Twitter @towardsfairwork.

The FairWork Foundation Aims:


To create a certification scheme, to attest where core labour standards are being adhered to in digital production networks around the world.


To reduce the information asymmetry between workers, firms and consumers – so that end-users have the ability to make informed, ethical choices about the digital products they buy.


To improve the working conditions of people employed in the digital gig economy, and encourage firms to monitor and improve their supply chains.


This project will draw on the expertise and experience of staff at the Oxford Internet Institute and Universities of Cape Town, Manchester, Oxford and the Western Cape on work practices and working conditions in digital labour platforms. Project staff will further refine criteria for fair digital work under development in collaboration with stakeholders and researchers at organisations with expertise on working conditions generally.

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