Fairwork vis-à-vis ILO Decent Work Standards

Posted on 23.08.2021
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By Richard Heeks, Mark Graham, Paul Mungai, Jean-Paul Van Belle and Jamie Woodcock

How does the Fairwork framework of five decent work standards in the gig economy – fair pay, conditions, management, contracts, representation – compare to more conventional frameworks?

As explained in a recently-published paper, Fairwork is a simplified, revised and measurable version of the 11 elements of the International Labour Organization’s decent work agenda.

Comparing the two, as shown in the table below, Fairwork is not as comprehensive. Some ILO elements not covered were seen as unrelated to Fairwork’s purpose. For example, the contextual elements lie outside the control of platforms, and no evidence was found of child or forced labour. Quantum of employment measures are not directly relevant to Fairwork’s aims though it would be informative to know if platforms are creating new work as opposed to just substituting for existing work.


ILO Decent Work Elements Focus Coverage by Fairwork Framework
Employment opportunities Quantum of available employment Not covered by the Fairwork principles
Adequate earnings and productive work Pay but incorporating a consideration of hours worked in order to generate adequate earnings Covered by Fair Pay
Decent working time Number of hours worked Not separately measured but incorporated into Fair Pay via hourly pay measure, and considered as part of Fair Conditions if overlong hours endanger the worker
Combining work, family and personal life Paid leave Covered in Fair Conditions
Flexibility of work Not covered by the Fairwork principles
Work that should be abolished Child and forced labour Not covered by the Fairwork principles
Stability and security of work Probability of job loss and overall quantum of precarious employment in an economy Not directly covered by the Fairwork principles but job security related to employment status covered under Fair Contracts and job loss process covered in Fair Management
Equal opportunity and treatment in employment Gender pay and employment gaps Partly covered in Fair Management
Equality of treatment across multiple dimensions of disadvantage Covered in Fair Management
Safe work environment Occupational safety and health Covered by Fair Conditions
Social security Social protection against contingencies including ill-health, old age, unemployment, and disability Covered by Fair Conditions
Social dialogue, employers’ and workers’ representation Freedom of association and collective bargaining Covered by Fair Representation
Economic and social context for decent work Broader national context of wealth, education, poverty, inequality, etc Not covered by the Fairwork principles


While outside the scope of Fairwork’s principles, work security and flexibility were investigated via open questions in worker interviews.  Workers did raise the issues of flexibility and autonomy, as positive attributes of their gig economy work. These supposed benefits are arguably more perceptual than real. Hours of work are often determined by client demand and shaped by incentive payments offered by the platform to work at certain times or for certain shift lengths. Work is recorded and managed via the app and platform to a significant extent.

In sum, the Fairwork framework covers the decent work-related issues identified in the research literature on platforms, and the majority of decent work elements within the ILO framework. Its ratings could nonetheless be contextualised in a number of ways by adding in broader findings about the national socio-economic context, about any creation of work and autonomy by the gig economy, about dimensions of inequality within and between gig sectors, and about longer-term job (in)security and precarity.

You can find more detail 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.