The platform economy continues to create job opportunities for many, particularly for young people in developing countries. However, a new report in Ghana has found that workers (predominantly ride-hailing drivers and delivery workers) have been at the mercy of a rise in inflation levels which is affecting their means of livelihood as and exacerbating poor working conditions.
Many Ghanaians who have joined digital labour platforms struggle to make ends meet as they struggle with everyday expenses and work longer hours to maintain a decent standard of life. Many of them have to switch between two or three platforms to work extra hours to be able to pay for their everyday expenses, as well as to put food on the table for their families and provide a roof over their heads. Some have had to create a second home in their cars because they work round the clock and can only afford to take naps in their cars. An indirect effect of working longer hours is that platform workers put their health at risk as they lack sleep and are often fatigued. Besides the impact on workers’ health, this also puts a strain on the vehicles which indirectly leads to an increase in maintenance costs.
In this second report by Fairwork Ghana, ‘Fairwork Ghana Ratings 2022: Towards Better Policies in the Platform Economy‘, ten platforms – The Black Ride, Glovo, Swift-Wheels, Bolt, Uber, Jumia Food, Bolt Food, InDriver, Feenix and Yango – were evaluated based on five principles of decent work. The report ranks the platforms against five principles of fair work, giving each company a score out of ten. It finds that the majority of the platforms could not find evidence they meet the basic standards of fairness when benchmarked against the Fairwork principles.
The 2022 Fairwork scores for Ghana range from zero to five (out of ten), showing the spread in working conditions on the ten digital labour platforms analysed. These varying scores reflect the policies and management practices the platforms have in place. The Black Ride and Glovo top the list of platforms studied this year, with five points each. The rest of the platforms (Bolt, Uber, Jumia Food, Bolt Food, InDriver, Feenix) received zero points, meaning they could not prove they meet any minimum standards of fair work, such as ensuring all workers earn above the national minimum wage.
Dr. Joseph Budu, the Principal Investigator for Fairwork Ghana, said: “Last year we released the first report, and this year we are releasing another because we want to continue to draw attention of all relevant stakeholder, including consumers to the issues confronting platform workers in Ghana. There is no doubt, the sector is creating jobs for many of the unemployed youth. However, the working conditions are not favorable and sustainable based on our evaluations. This is why we continue to highlight the issues young men and women are experiencing and probe platforms on their working conditions. The major problem is that there is no regulation of the platform workspace, so we are calling on the Government to institute effective regulations that hold platforms to account. The government needs to reform the Labour law to recognise platform workers. At the moment, they’re not considered as employees by platforms they work for. We at Fairwork believe strongly that plight of workers will improve if government recognises them as employees, because platform workers will benefit from social protections, safety nets, the ability to collectively bargain and contribute to the decisions affecting their everyday labour.”
Prof Richard Boateng, the Project Lead for Fairwork Ghana said: “Ghana, among other countries is witnessing rising cost inflation which is greatly affecting platform workers in terms of their operational cost, amidst existing issues such as lack of safety and security. Yet, platforms are not doing enough to ensure decent working conditions for their workers. This year for instance we identified that the high inflation in Ghana which is having adverse effects on workers’ earnings and operational cost. They now have to pay more for fuel, maintenance, and call credit and mobile data among other things. While some platforms have made some changes since our last report launch, there is still a whole lot more to be done. We think that, at this point the government needs to step in so that platform workers can receive the needed recognition under the relevant labour laws which will also enable platforms to comply to these laws and accord platform workers employment and labour rights.”
Fair Pay: There was insufficient evidence that workers on all of the ten platforms earned the minimum wage after accounting for costs (GHs13.53/day). There was insufficient evidence that workers on any of the ten platforms earned the living wage rate after accounting for costs (GHs 39.1/day). In other words, we were unable to evidence that workers on any of the ten platforms earned enough to meet the standard of decent living. This highlights the need for regulation and worker consultation on matters of pay.
Fair Conditions: One of the ten platforms, Glovo, was able to evidence that they took various actions to protect workers from risks that arise on the job. We could not evidence that any of the ten platforms provided safety nets for workers.
Fair Contracts: Both The Black Ride and Glovo could provide evidence that their terms and conditions are clear and transparent, and subject to Ghanaian law. However, we also found evidence of extensive subcontracting arrangements whereby platforms engaged intermediary subcontractors who, in turn, engaged workers. Workers were often unclear about who was responsible for their working conditions and the payment of wages. Only one platform, Glovo, could evidence that they do not unreasonably exclude liability on the part of the platform, and that the contract does not contain clauses that prevent workers from seeking redress for grievances.
Fair management: Only two of the ten platforms (Glovo and The Black Ride) were able to evidence the provision of due process for decisions affecting workers. These platforms demonstrated effective communication channels and appeals processes in instances where workers have been deactivated from the platform. The Black Ride and Glovo were also awarded an additional point for issuing public anti-discrimination policies and measures that help promote equality for disadvantaged groups such as women.
Fair Representation: Only The Black Ride provided evidence that they ensure freedom of association and collective worker voice, and also that they have formally and publicly recognised an independent collective body of workers by signing an MOU with various associations.
Publishing this study, researchers from the Fairwork Ghana team at the University of Ghana Business School are calling for stronger protections and more robust labour standards in Ghana’s platform economy.
What can I do? 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!