The Fairwork Egypt 2021 Report presents the first round of Fairwork ratings for the Egyptian platform economy. The report evaluates the working conditions of seven digital labour platforms spanning four different sectors: ride-hailing, courier-delivery, tutoring, and home services. The platforms scores range from 0 to 5 out of 10, highlighting the existing gaps in labour standards across the board.
Following the rise in internet penetration rate from only 30% in 2010 to 54% in 2020, gig work has offered increased opportunities to find work easily, especially for workers in the informal economy, women and unemployed educated youth. Nevertheless, there are issues with the gig work model. The Fairwork report for Egypt examines the working conditions in the platform economy, with the aim to help improve conditions, protections and benefits to workers.
Ride-hailing services were the first type of gig work to break into the Egyptian market, with the launch of Uber in 2014. Since then, there has been an expansion in platform services beyond ride-hailing, particularly in the delivery sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has further catalysed this trend, leading to a 230% surge in demand for delivery services alone in Egypt. Nevertheless, and despite a growing number of new platforms, the platform economy still represents a small niche within Egypt’s large informal economy. It is estimated to include anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 workers, about 90% of whom are Uber drivers. While Egypt’s platform economy is dominated by multinational ride-hailing companies, there is a budding local scene of start-ups, some of which are included in this report.
In Egypt, the majority of gig workers are classified as independent contractors rather than employees. This is one reason why gig workers are often mislabelled and lumped within statistics on informal workers. In March 2021, the Egyptian government announced that it planned to “identify and support 2 million gig workers in the country by the end of this year”, according to Labour Ministry spokesman Haitham Saad El-Din. In order to do so, the Ministry plans to register gig workers’ employment status as “irregular employment”, which will enable workers to access free social security insurance including healthcare coverage, life insurance and disability cover, and other state welfare programs such as the previously administered three-months coronavirus grant. Being registered as “irregular” workers will allow for more protection for platform workers, while also forcing employers to adjust their employer-employee relationships thereby giving workers more rights. It is still unclear how the Ministry’s plans will unfold, but this represents a positive effort by policy makers to be inclusive of platform workers.
The Fairwork Egypt Ratings 2021 assess 7 of the country’s location-based digital labour platforms against five principles of fairness—fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation—giving each platform a fairness rating out of ten. FilKhedma, a platform offering a variety of home services, leads the 2021 table with 5 points. Mrsool (courier-delivery) and Orcas (tutoring) are tied in second place with 4 points. Swvl (bus hailing) scored 3 points. Talabat (a delivery platform), Mongez (courier-delivery), and Uber (ride-hailing) are at the bottom with 1 point each.
Fair Pay: 3 of the 7 platforms (FilKhedma, Orcas and Swvl) provided evidence that workers’ gross pay is at or above the minimum wage after costs, which for 2021 was EGP 2,000 (USD 127.31) per month. Only 2 platforms (Orcas and Swvl) could evidence they pay a living wage, currently assessed for 2021 as EGP 3500 (USD 222.81) per month,after costs and for all active time.
Fair Conditions: There are numerous risks gig workers face in the course of their work, ranging from road safety issues to crime and violence. 5 of the platforms were able to evidence that they take some action to protect workers from these risks. For example, Mongez and Mrsool have policies in place to deal with malicious orders, and Orcas ensures that workers’ incomes are secured in case of any cancellations. After discussions with the Fairwork Egypt team, FilKhedma agreed to implement a data management policy that follows the GDPR guidelines.
Fair Contracts: Only 3platforms (FilKhedma, Orcas and Swvl) could evidence they have clear and accessible terms and conditions and their workers are notified in advance of changes to them. All platforms have a clause limiting or excluding liability on the part of the platform, and thus none were able to score the second point for fair contracts.
Fair Management: 3 platforms (FilKhedma, Mrsool, and Talabat) could evidence that they provide due process for decisions affecting their workers, including an avenue for workers to appeal disciplinary actions. In consultation with the Fairwork Egypt team, FilKhedma and Orcas implemented an anti-discrimination policy. However, only FilKhedma was able to score a point for ensuring equity in the management process, as it takes meaningful steps to be inclusive of women.
Fair Representation: Mrsool was the only platform that provided evidence of meaningful collective worker voice mechanisms, in the form of regular forums and meetings. Additionally, Mrsool publicly declared that they support government led efforts to establish a courier’s trade union and that they would engage in negotiations with it.
The Fairwork Pledge
As part of Fairwork’s commitment to making platforms accountable for their labour practices, we are launching the Fairwork Pledge. The pledge aims to encourage other organisations to support best labour practices, guided by the five principles of fair work.
Organisations like universities, schools, businesses, and charities that make use of platform labour can make a difference by supporting the best labour practices, guided by our five principles of fair work. 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 in their supply chains.
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.