This year’s Fairwork Egypt report, which marks the second cycle of our research in Egypt, examines digital labour platforms that provide on-demand work in Egypt via apps or web interfaces in the service sector, including domestic work, food delivery, ride-sharing/transportation, and tutoring.
The report highlights both the positive developments and the challenges to decent and fair work standards represented by digital labour platforms, including issues faced by platform workers in an economy suffering from surging inflation rates and rising unemployment. Our research shows that while platform work has enabled workers to generate new income, or supplement already existing ones, its impact has been diminished as a result of rising inflation and the substantial increase in the cost of living.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, digital labour platforms became one of the major job providers in a country where the number of people looking for work has consistently outnumbered the number of jobs available in the market. Workers in Egypt are increasingly turning to the platform economy for easier access and greater flexibility in terms of when and how they work. At the same time, workers’ livelihoods earned from platform work has been affected by soaring inflation, jumping from 8 percent in 2021 to 24.4 percent in December 2022, to 31.24% in January 2023, not to mention the devaluation with the Egyptian pound weakening by 42.4 percent over the last year.
This year’s report evaluates 10 digital labour platforms according to five principles of fair work, including: Breadfast, Elmenus, Filkhedma, inDrive, Mrsool, Orcas, Swvl, Talabat, Taskty, and Uber. Six of these platforms were included in last year’s report: Filkhedma, Mrsool, Orcas, Swvl, Talabt and Uber.
Since last year, the Fairwork Egypt team’s research has had a positive impact on working conditions in the platforms under study. Dialogue with platforms has resulted in an increased willingness of many of them to improve working conditions for their workers, with four platforms improving their score since last year. The impact of this year’s research has been remarkable; examples include Breadfast’s adoption of a documented data protection policy, and Breadfast and Mrsool’s adoption of a documented anti-discrimination policy.
Fair Pay: Evidence shows that eight platforms ((Orcas, Mrsool, Talabat, Breadfast, Uber, Filkhedma, Taskty, and Swvl) pay their workers at or above the minimum wage, which in 2022 was EGP 2,400 per month (USD 80.22), or EGP 554 per week (USD 18.52) for a six-day work week. Only one platform, Orcas, could provide evidence that it provides its workers a living wage, currently assessed as EGP 5045 per month (USD 168.66), or EGP 1164 per week (USD 38.91) for 2022.
Fair Conditions: Seven of the platforms (Breadfast, Filkhedma, Elmenus, Mrsool, Orcas, Talabat, and Uber) were able to evidence action taken towards providing workers with sufficient protection for their health and safety. Four delivery platforms provide their couriers with safety gear (Breadfast, Elmenus Mrsool and Talabat). They also provide rest stops, medical insurance and an accident reimbursement system, ensuring compensation in the case of road accidents and recovery costs. Filkhedma offers its workers detailed safety training. It also has a clear policy stating that female workers are allowed to reject tasks in single-male adult households. Orcas ensures that workers are compensated for cancelled sessions. It also provides a detailed training manual and kit. Uber provides a documented policy to protect workers from task-specific risks, including an accident insurance policy.
Fair Contracts: Five platforms (Breadfast, Filkhedma, Mrsool, Orcas and Uber) have clear and accessible terms and conditions. They are made available in Arabic and abide by local laws. Additionally, a data protection policy is available which complies with Egyptian law.
Fair Management: Five platforms could evidence (Breadfast, Filkhedma, Mrsool, Orcas and Talabat) an effective communication channel between the worker and the platform, as well as a documented process to appeal decisions affecting workers. Four platforms could evidence an anti-discrimination policy. In consultation with the Fairwork Egypt team, Breadfast adopted an anti-discrimination policy and added it in a statement in their hiring page. Filkhedma provided evidence of practical measures of inclusion and released graphics-based Facebook posts encouraging people with disabilities to apply for the platform. And Mrsool added an anti-discrimination policy in their terms and conditions.
Fair Representation: Only two platforms were able to provide evidence towards implementing mechanisms of collective worker voice. Mrsool publicly declared their interest in and support of the creation of a trade union for its riders. Orcas was the other platform that provided initiatives encouraging tutors to participate and engage in a Facebook group where they can raise their concerns and carry out discussions with colleagues. Orcas also posted a statement on their website and tutor’s kit declaring their willingness to recognize an independent body for freelancers once it comes into existence.
What can I do? The Fairwork Pledge
As part of Fairwork’s commitment to making platforms accountable for their labour practices, we have launched the Fairwork Pledge. This pledge aims to encourage other organisations to support decent labour practices in the platform economy, guided by the five principles of fair work.
Organisations like universities, schools, businesses, investors and charities that make use of platform labour can make a difference by supporting platforms that offer better working conditions.
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 about what platforms to use. 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.
More than 40 organizations, including GIZ, Solidarity Center, Learning Lions, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, and FES, have already signed the pledge. Join them in demanding a fairer future of work!