There are now tens of millions of digital platform workers that live all over the world, doing work that is outsourced via platforms or apps.

Platform work provides essential income and opportunities to many. However, lacking protection from employment law or collective bodies, many platform workers face low pay, precarity, and poor and dangerous working conditions.

Fairwork is committed to highlighting best and worst practices in the platform economy. At workshops in Geneva, we have brought together platforms, workers, trade unions, regulators, and academics to set global principles of fair work in the platform economy. Those principles have been revised in a series of tripartite workshops in South Africa, India, and Germany. Using those principles, we give every platform a ‘fairness’ score.

Fairwork, at its essence, is a way of imagining a different, and fairer, platform economy than the one we have today. By evaluating platforms against measures of fairness, we hope to not just show what the platform economy is, but also what it can be.

The Fairwork project is run out of the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and the Berlin Social Science Centre. Through our global network of researchers, we evaluate the working conditions of digital labour platforms and score them against five principles of fair work. See here for a list of collaborating institutions.

What is the platform economy?

Fairwork focuses on ‘digital labour platforms’. A digital labour platform is a company that mediates and facilitates “labour exchange between different users, such as businesses, workers and consumers (ILO 2021)”. Digital platforms like Airbnb or eBay—where goods are exchanged—are not included within this definition.

There are two broad types of digital labour platforms. In the first—’geographically-tethered’ or ‘location-based’ platforms—the work is required to be done in a particular location (e.g. delivering food from a restaurant to an apartment or driving a person from one part of town to another). We call these ‘gig work platforms’.

In contrast, in the second—’cloudwork’ platforms (or “online web-based platforms)—the work can, in theory, be performed from anywhere via the internet and remotely (e.g. data categorisation or online freelancing). We call these ‘cloudwork platforms’.


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If you have any questions about the project, please feel free to get in touch using the links above, or visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.