Fairwork launches today the first set of fairness ratings for the Kenyan platform economy. In the first report of its kind, researchers from Qhala and the Oxford Internet Institute evaluate the working conditions of the nine most prominent platforms in the country – Bolt, Glovo, InDriver, Jumia, Little Cab, SweepSouth, Uber, Uber Eats, and Wasili. The scores achieved by these platforms range from 7 to 0. The spread of scores shows how, while not all platforms are the same, all of them have room for improving working conditions.
The first annual Fairwork Kenya report presents a snapshot of a fast-growing platform economy, underpinned by a young population, high unemployment rates and a large informal sector. As the innovation hub of East and Central Africa, Kenya (and specifically Nairobi), has seen the emergence of local and international digital labour platforms looking to expand and capture a young and tech-savvy workforce. In 2019, there were estimated to be more than 35,000 workers in the Kenyan gig economy. This number is expected to grow to almost 100,000 in 2023.
Our report found ride-hailing, delivery and home-cleaning platforms offer valuable income opportunities for marginalised workers like women, young people, people with disabilities and refugees, sometimes with slightly better protections than is found in the informal sector.
However, most of these platforms classify their workers as independent, a contentious practice that leaves workers unprotected. Our findings show how many of these workers face low pay, risky conditions and unfair management practices. The pandemic has made these vulnerabilities even more visible. While platform work has offered much-needed livelihoods during the crisis, the majority of platforms did not provide adequate safety measures or financial security for these essential workers.
Fairwork Kenya Ratings 2021:
Fairwork scores digital labour platforms based on five global principles of ‘fair work’ – Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. Evidence on whether platforms comply with these five principles was collected through desk research, interviews with workers, and platform-provided evidence. The evidence was then used to assign a Fairwork score out of ten to each platform.
In this first year of scoring in Kenya, we found a spectrum of platform practices. Platform’s scores were mainly clustered between 0 and 2, with Glovo achieving a higher score of 7 out of ten, on the basis of a number of documented policies and practices advancing fairer working conditions. However, Glovo still failed to meet basic standards for fair pay and representation. This spread of scores clearly shows that while the majority of platforms are not living up to minimum standards of fairness in Kenya, it is possible for platforms to implement better practices.
Fair Pay: While many of the workers in our study reported earning above minimum wage, only one platform (Glovo) could evidence their workers did not fall below the local minimum wage after costs were taken into account. However, no platform could evidence all workers earn a living wage.
Fair Conditions: Four platforms (Glovo, SweepSouth, Uber and Uber Eats) could show that they took steps to mitigate work-related risks. Glovo also provided evidence of compensating workers for loss of income if they became infected with COVID-19.
Fair Contracts: Only one platform (Glovo) evidence that their terms and conditions were clear, accessible and subject to the law of the local jurisdiction.
Fair Management: Several workers told us that platforms often took a long time to respond to communications. It is also common for workers to be deactivated or blocked by the platform for arbitrary reasons and without a fair appeal process. Glovo and Sweepsouth were the only platforms that could evidence an official channel for workers to appeal disciplinary decisions, like deactivations. Both platforms also had extensive anti-discrimination policies.
Fair Representation: Four platforms received a point for Fair Representation by proving their willingness to recognise and negotiate with collective representative bodies of workers. In 2018, following strike action over fares by workers on Uber, Bolt (then Taxify), Little Cabs, and others in the taxi industry, these platforms signed an agreement that provided a foundation for further engagement and negotiation on pay and worker welfare. However, this engagement has not been continuously ongoing since the agreement was signed. Hence, we encourage the companies to adhere to the spirit of their agreement by proactively and regularly meeting with worker representative bodies.
While the platform economy is poised to offer a solution to the high rates of unemployment in Kenya, the Fairwork scores show how the current practices of digital labour platforms fall far short of offering minimum rights and protections to workers. For digital labour platforms to truly contribute to tackling youth unemployment and driving inclusive growth in Kenya, their shortfalls in labour standards must be addressed. This responsibility rests ultimately with the platforms themselves. But change will rely on platforms being held accountable both by regulation and by worker power, which in turn must be supported and encouraged within regulatory frameworks. This first Fairwork Kenya report provides a resource to all stakeholders in working towards a dynamic platform economy rooted in basic standards of fairness.
The Fairwork Pledge
As part of Fairwork’s commitment to making platforms accountable for their labour practices, we are launching the FairworkPledge. The pledge aims to encourage other organisations to support best labour practices, guided by the five principles of fair work.
Organisations like universities, schools, businesses, and charities that make use of platform labour can make a difference by supporting the best labour practices, guided by our five principles of fair work. Organisations have the option to sign up to the Pledge as an official Fairwork Supporter or an official Fairwork Partner. Those signing up to be a Supporter must demonstrate their support for fairer platform work publicly and provide their staff with appropriate resources to make informed decisions in their supply chains. Becoming a Fairwork Partner entails making a public commitment to implement changes in their own internal practices, such as committing to using better-rated platforms when there is a choice.
We are proud to announce Learning Lions and Digital Lions as our first Supporter and Partner organisations in Kenya. Learning Lions is a non-profit organisation providing young adults in impoverished rural areas of Eastern Africa with IT and media skills. As Fairwork Partners, they have committed to include the Fairwork Cloudwork ratings in the curricula for their trainees so that they can understand the differences in working conditions between online labour platforms and guide their decision on which platforms they want to work for in the future.
Follow their example and join the Pledge today!