New Paper! Dynamic Improvements in the Fairwork Approach

Posted on 28.07.2021
Graphic with number of platforms who fulfill each of the Fairwork's criteria
Fairwork South Africa 2019 results

By Richard Heeks, Mark Graham, Paul Mungai, Jean-Paul Van Belle and Jamie Woodcock

Fairwork is not a static initiative but always dynamic and evolving.

Charting this, Fairwork researchers have recently published a reflective analysis of the first application of Fairwork’s five principles of decent work principles – fair pay, conditions, management, contracts, representation – in South Africa.

This demonstrated that the Fairwork framework provides a basis for evaluation throughout the gig economy that anyone can use.  It allows for the comparison of gig platforms between sectors, between foreign- and locally-owned, and over time.  It also allowed for demonstrable impact, with improvements being made to worker terms and conditions.

But three things emerged in this first application that led to changes in Fairwork’s own operation.

Principle 4.2 initially combined issues of equity and data management, with adherence to either one sufficient to obtain a point. But this proved unwieldy in practice.  We, therefore, amended this principle to focus solely on equity in the management process, but adding a requirement for equity and transparency in the use of algorithms.

Platforms were motivated by the potential negative impact of a low Fairwork score.  There was initially less perceived value of a high score that would recognise relatively more-decent work standards.  To improve this, we introduced “kitemarking”: that those platforms scoring seven or above including both points for fair pay should be allowed to use the Fairwork logo in their publicity.

Finally, our public dissemination of platform scores has been a valuable lever to change in the gig economy. But we felt it would be powerful to draw in a wider range of stakeholders with more tangible use of the scores. We have therefore introduced the Fairwork pledge to which organisations and investors can sign up.

You can find more details about this and other foundations for the Fairwork project in the open-access paper, “Systematic Evaluation of Gig Work Against Decent Work Standards: The Development and Application of the Fairwork Framework”; published in the journal, The Information Society.