Fairwork has partnered with the team at DataSense to launch Fairwork Bangladesh. DataSense is the market research branch of iSocial, a social enterprise working to benefit women, children and adolescents by reaching the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP). The team at DataSense works to promote BoP growth, through superior data precision and dynamic targeting, in partnership with international development bodies, government agencies, and local enterprises.
The Fairwork Bangladesh team is composed of Dr Ananya Raihan, Dr Murali Shanmugavelan, Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, Barrister Anita Ghazi Rahman, Tasnim Mustaque and Sabrina Mustabin Jaigirdar. The team will be rating the working conditions in the most popular gig work platforms in Bangladesh based on the global principles of fair work in order to identify the best and worst practices in the country’s digital economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously disrupted the overall economy of Bangladesh. Although the rates of infection and deaths are low compared to many countries, the impact on the lives of the people—especially for low-income groups—is evident, with many institutions closed, leaving thousands without any source of income. One of the most vulnerable groups during the crisis have been gig workers.
90% of the workforce in Bangladesh are informal workers, who contribute approximately 45% of the country’s GDP. The country is a party-state to the ILO’s “Transition from the Informal Economy to Formal Economy Recommendation 2015 (No. 204)”. Bangladesh’s labour Law of 2006 (refined in 2010, 2013 and 2018) is a comprehensive one, providing detailed guidelines for worker-employer relations and benefits. Although the National Labor Policy 2006 emphasizes the rights and welfare of gig workers, they still continue to be out of the purview of the Labor Law. The lack of protection from the legal system further exacerbates their vulnerable situation.
Digital labour, both online work and geographically-tethered work, has become a prominent source of employment in the country. The 2017 Online Labour Index published by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) showed that Bangladesh has the second-largest freelance market, only after India. In terms of gig work, various platforms like Uber, Pathao, Shohoz rides, Food Panda, Hungrynaki, TruckLagbe, and others have already entered the Bangladeshi market. Uber and Pathao, hold more than three-quarters of the market share in the ride-hailing sector due to their first-mover advantage. The rapid growth of the gig economy in Bangladesh has encouraged tens of thousands of rural and suburban youths to migrate to metropolitan areas to take part in this transformation.
The Bangladesh team believes the Fairwork framework will help collect unprecedented empirical evidence of the working conditions in the sector. The evidence collected will be used to promote public awareness of the precarious conditions of workers in the gig economy, and encourage government and social action. The team hopes that their research will provide the basis for improving the conditions of gig workers in the country.