Last week marked the release of the second series of the Fairwork Podcast. This series of 8 episodes aims to span the globe, featuring the stories from workers and researchers across 3 continents.
The series looks at forms of platform work wherein workers and employers connect only over the internet, with no physical meeting between them. The academic terms we use for this type of work – Cloudwork, geographically untethered work, remote platform labour – are often esoteric and obscure. But whatever we choose to call it, the premise remains the same: work can be completed anywhere with an internet connection and it doesn’t matter if a worker is next door or halfway around the globe.
In this series, our host Robbie Warin delves into working conditions at a range of platforms across many sectors and with different practices, from YouTube to OnlyFans, and stretching over to Microwork platforms like Appen and Scale. Some are already well covered within the study of labour rights in the platform economy, but others less so. The thread that draws them together is how they are reconfiguring the nature of labour at an international level, enabling workers from around the world to compete for wages within labour markets that exist at a global scale. This is the planetary labour market.
In this series, we draw together these different platforms, bundling them up so we can compare the various ways in which they mediate the relationship between worker and employer and enable people to earn a living. In our conversations, we heard stories of success and of failure; of low wages and high. We discussed the diversity of experiences that exist within any type of work, in ways which we hope will avoid foreclosure but instead generate a nuanced, first-person perspective of how workers experience platform work.
Over the course of the series, you will hear a host of interviews with different workers, based in many places around the world. Finding these workers wasn’t easy as there is no physical workplace we could go to find them, so we turned to the digital meeting spaces and forums where workers gather to share information, support each other, and build solidarity.
The precarity surrounding Cloudwork is immense. Most workers are not given the protection that one would get as a formal employee and income can be taken away much more easily. It is also worth noting our interviews were conducted in English, which many workers did not feel comfortable doing. Further, the majority of workers we spoke to for this series are based in the Global North, and were also mostly male. Many of the workers interviewed have also now stopped working on online platforms. It’s important to recognise that our selection of interviews is not representative of the huge breadth of people undertaking these types of work, many of whom are based in the Global South.
As such, we must understand this series, not as an attempt at representing the entirety of experiences of working on Cloudwork platforms, but as an elevation of individuals’ stories and lived experience of what it can be like to work for digital platforms in different parts of the world.
Finally, we want people to feel able to shape the podcast, and contribute to its future. If you have thoughts or feedback after listening to the podcast, please get in touch with host Robbie Warin: firstname.lastname@example.org.