Fairwork is thrilled to announce that the Center for Development Evaluation and Social Science Research (CREDI), in Sarajevo has joined the Fairwork network. The team at CREDI, consisting of Principal Investigator Nermin Oruč, Amela Kurta, and Ilma Kurtović, will apply the Fairwork methodology to prominent digital labour platforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide an independent analysis of the working conditions they provide.
According to estimates by CEDEFOP, a third of existing jobs will be done online in the future because of the increased flexibility and autonomy this enables. Working through online platforms has become particularly interesting to many stakeholders because of its growth potential. In fact, as shown by COLEEM (2018), 10% of adults across Europe occasionally provide paid services via online platforms. For some, online platforms provide their only source of income.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina more specifically, the labour market is very challenging. The unemployment rate is high (17% according to an LFS survey), and the share of total employment that is informal is also relatively high (30% according to the ILO). Unemployed people, especially younger people, choose platform work because of a lack of opportunity and flexibility, and to make quick earnings, despite the fact that they will have neither an adequate level of protection at work, nor health and social insurance. There is an evident and increasing trend that workers are considering a career working online, and working through digital platforms, because of the prevalence of short-term contracts.
Local digital platforms are still developing their operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The most advanced and popular sector is food delivery. The trend started during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when Bosnia and Herzegovina became a destination for Glovo, one of the world’s leading delivery platforms. In the same year, similar local and regional food delivery companies such as Korpa.ba, Donesi, and Ceger increased in popularity too. Due to strict lockdowns, shops and restaurants were forced to close their doors and lay off employees. For many businesses, delivery and online shopping platforms were the only options for survival. However, for many people who were laid off during the pandemic this was also an opportunity to find work. For the past three years, the streets of many cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been flooded with delivery workers. Mainly on bicycles and with large and very heavy bags, these workers rush to complete their deliveries punctually. In addition to platforms offering delivery services, there are other platforms employing workers in the labour market in BiH. Through these it is possible to contract a range services, such as babysitting, apartment cleaning, or repairs.
Platform work as an employment model is more present in larger cities, where four digital platforms for food delivery are active. The main cities are Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar. In principle, the same platforms operate in these cities and offer similar terms to restaurants and customers with only minor differences in commission or delivery price.
BiH inherited rather strict labour market regulation from Yugoslavia. Since independence, a number of labour legislation reforms have been implemented with the aim of making the labour market more flexible. Digital platforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina operate in a particular legal environment due to the administrative division of the country. It consists of three administrative units: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, and Brčko District. Labour market regulation falls under the mandate of these sub-national administrative units, which has a range of different implications and result in varied working conditions for platform workers. Therefore, it is important to assess these institutional conditions because of the influence they exert on the operations of platforms.
The current legal framework does not tackle platform work directly. Platform workers do not formally exist as a legal category, nor do they have legally regulated status. Thus, there is an urgent need for dialog on the topic. Public discussion in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding the employment protections of platform workers is still at an early stage and there is a lack of evidence to facilitate understanding of the challenges that platform workers face.
Therefore, it is necessary to conduct research into the problems that platform workers face and the extent to which platforms themselves guarantee labour rights. To do so, the working conditions provided by platforms will be evaluated against the five Fairwork principles, in order to arrive at fairness scores out of ten. These scores can then serve as a basis for advocating for the protection of worker’s rights to relevant decision makers. In addition, given that the number of workers employed on these platforms is unknown, and no research in this area has been conducted in Bosnia-Herzegovina before, the project is also expected to enrich knowledge of this field.
The work performed by CREDI has already contributed to the improvement of the different aspects of the labour market, such as improved flexibility of full-time student employment. We hope the Fairwork project will contribute to achieving fairer working conditions for platform workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina.