Fairwork’s Strategies for Improving Gig Work

Posted on 17.03.2020

How can we measure whether gig work is fair work?

The Fairwork initiative has developed a framework of decent work standards for the gig economy.  This was based on a review of existing standards that was then developed further at workshops in Berlin, Geneva, Bangalore, and Johannesburg.

The workshops condensed the standards into five principles, each with two thresholds of fairness (see Table 1). The initial threshold is a floor underneath which working conditions should not fall.  The secondary threshold is a more aspirational target.  Each carries a weight of one point; and so gig economy platforms can be awarded a score out of ten.

In any given country, Fairwork scores are developed using three overlapping data sources.  First, interview invitations are sent to all large platforms.  In those interviews, platforms are given the opportunity to discuss the scoring criteria and provide evidence for how they meet the thresholds.  Some platforms have also asked for suggestions on changes to policies that might be needed in order to receive more points.

Second, interviews are undertaken with a random selection of workers from each platform.  Our interviewers ask workers not just about their own jobs, but also experiences of other workers in their networks. These interviews are mostly used to understand how platform policies play out in practice and to gather evidence that can be used for continuing discussions with platform representatives.

Third, desk research is used to uncover information about platform policies that can be used to assign scores; from platform websites and apps supplemented with news stories, investor reports, and other third-party content.

Because it seeks to enact change by comparing fairness of work across all platform, Fairwork scores all major platforms; not just those who agree to be interviewed.  Faced with contexts in which some platforms may not wish to supply supporting evidence, Fairwork’s scoring strategy stipulates that scores should only be given if there is clear empirical evidence to demonstrate that a platform surpasses any threshold.  In other words, the lack of a point can either represent the fact that a principle is not met or that there is insufficient evidence to judge compliance.

Platform ratings are published online. They are released annually to reflect the fast-changing nature of the platform economy, ensuring that no scores are more than one year old.

For more information about the development and enactment of our principles and thresholds, please refer to our recently-published Geoforum paper.  For more information about the Fairwork initiative, please refer to our website: