New! First Fairwork Pakistan Report: How fair are working conditions in the Pakistani platform economy?

Posted on 25.08.2022
Pakistan 2022 Blog Cover

The ‘Fairwork Pakistan Ratings 2022’ report evaluates the working conditions at seven Pakistani digital labour platforms in the ride-hailing, food delivery, e-commerce delivery, and personal care sectors. Researchers from Centre for Labour Research, are calling for stronger protections and more robust labour standards in the platform economy.

Pakistan has nearly two percent of its labour force engaged in the gig economy through online and location-based services. An estimated half a million workers in the country work in the location-based platform economy, but it has been encouraging a race to the bottom regarding working conditions.

Workers, invariably considered self-employed, benefit neither from the country’s Ehsaas programme of social protection, nor the COVID-19-related social protections offered to those in more standard employment. Platforms identify themselves as “technology companies” meaning the de facto avoidance of sector specific labour protections.  In consequence workers face limited access to basic employment rights, such as minimum wages, decent working hours, social security, and collective bargaining. Some workers face an unexpected, exploitative phenomena of negative income which hovers over them when their monthly costs exceed their incomes.

To provide an independent evaluation of working conditions in the gig economy, Fairwork Pakistan have rated platforms against five principles of fairwork: Fair Pay, Fair Conditions, Fair Contracts, Fair Management, and Fair Representation. Evidence collected through desk research, interviews with workers, and platform-provided evidence has been used to determine the Fairwork scores out of ten.

With a single point each, Gharpar, Uber, and FoodPanda lead the ratings; Cheetay, Careem, Bykea, and Daraz scored no points. These dreadful scores indicate quite the chasm to be crossed before fair working conditions are achieved. 


Key Findings

Fair Pay: Workers on only one of the seven platforms, Gharpar, were able to consistently earn above the minimum wage after costs, which for 2021 was PKR 22,602 (ca. USD140) per month or PKR 109 (ca. USD0.70) per hour. The scoring took into account not only the amount paid by the platform to the worker for hours worked, but also the cost of providing task-specific equipment, paying work-related costs out of pocket and waiting times between jobs. None of the platforms evidenced payment of a living wage.  

Fair Conditions: Uber was the only platform to evidence that they are aware of risks to workers and that they take action to offer protection against at least some of them by, for example, providing road safety training, emergency assistance, and ethical data protection measures. Uber therefore scored the first point. No other platforms were able to evidence sufficient basic safety measures; nor was any platform, including Uber, able to provide evidence of policies or procedures to adequately protect their workers’ vulnerability to income loss due to unexpected or external circumstances.  

Fair Contracts: Not all platforms have clear and accessible terms and conditions, and only one platform, Foodpanda, has been awarded the first point for fair contracts. Their contract is public and accessible to its riders, and has been made comprehensible to the majority of workers, after consultation with the Fairwork Pakistan team, by translating it into the national language, Urdu. Contracts not being accessible to workers at all times was a major issue identified on some of the platforms. Moreover, our research showed that some platforms have clauses in their terms and conditions unfairly limiting or excluding liability on the part of the platform.  

Fair Management: We could not evidence that any of the platforms we studied provided due process for decisions affecting their workers, including avenues for workers to meaningfully appeal disciplinary action. Our research indicated that workers often found the appeals process inadequate, or they felt they were disadvantaged for voicing concerns.   

In consultation with the Fairwork Pakistan team, one platform, Gharpar, has implemented an anti-discrimination policy. This notwithstanding, there was insufficient evidence that the platforms studied this year provide genuine equity in their management process; for example, by removing barriers to employment of under-represented groups or by having effective means to stop users discriminating against workers from disadvantaged groups.  

Fair Representation: We could not award a point on this principle to any of the platforms we studied. Gharpar was the only platform which came close to providing meaningful collective worker voice mechanisms in the form of its Gharpar Monitor Meetings. For the remaining platforms there was insufficient evidence to warrant a score. No platform formally adheres to even basic worker rights by permitting freedom of association; there was no documentation of a process for expression of collective worker voice, or any guarantee that workers will not be penalised for associating or expressing demands.

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.   

The Oxford Internet Institute, The University of Oxford School of Geography and the Environment, The Church of England Diocese of Oxford, the Good Business Charter, The New Economics Foundation and Meatspace Press have already signed the pledge. Join them in demanding a fairer future of work.