Second Fairwork Pakistan report finds none of the Pakistani platforms meet fair work thresholds

Posted on 29.08.2023
PK 23 blog cover

The ‘Fairwork Pakistan Ratings 2023’ report evaluates the working conditions at six Pakistani digital labour platforms in the ride-hailing, food delivery, e-commerce delivery, and personal care sectors.

Researchers from the Centre for Labour Research are calling for stronger protections and more robust labour standards in the platform economy. To provide an independent evaluation of working conditions in the gig economy, Fairwork Pakistan have rated platforms against five principles of fair work: 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.

Amidst rising inflation, poverty, and informal employment affecting 84 percent of the workforce, about 700,000 platform workers operate in Pakistan’s challenging economic environment. The second Fairwork Pakistan report scrutinizes key digital labor platforms, revealing persistent issues in pay, conditions, contracts, management and representation. None of the six platforms – GharPar, Uber, Foodpanda, inDrive, Careem, and Bykea – scored any points this year. Foodpanda, Uber and GharPar all scored a point last year. These dreadful scores indicate quite the chasm to be crossed before fair working conditions are achieved.


Key findings

Fair Pay: None of the platforms we assessed provided evidence that workers earn above the prescribed minimum wage of Pakistan Rupees (PKR) 28,253 (USD 99.16) per month or PKR 136 (USD 0.48) per hour in 2023. Given the ever-increasing travel expenses and vehicle maintenance costs, there was no evidence that any of the six platforms met the minimum wage threshold after considering necessary expenses. This is a decline compared to last year’s report, where Gharpar received a favourable score due to evidence that its workers attain the minimum wage. Fairwork Pakistan found no platform guaranteeing a minimum living wage — PKR 42,728 per month (USD 150.16) or PKR 205 (USD 0.72) per hour in 2023 for platform workers.

Fair Conditions: We found that none of the six platforms adequately mitigate task-specific risks, and there is a lack of proper safety training. Most of the workers we spoke to reported not receiving any safety training, and those who did, described only brief sessions or demo videos that did not specifically focus on worker safety. None of the workers we spoke to had access to free safety equipment, though Foodpanda and Bykea give the option for workers to pay for safety gear.

The platforms’ efforts to address lone working risks were limited. Emergency buttons or helplines are provided, but awareness regarding these is limited. Moreover, the workers we spoke to reported mixed experiences and doubts about the effectiveness of emergency buttons and helplines. Crucially, risks to workers’ physical and mental health were largely unaddressed, as there were no provisions for rest areas, access to toilets, or food/snacks.

The workers’ awareness of insurance programmes was minimal though platforms such as Foodpanda and Uber had pro-worker policies in the form of accidental insurance coverage for their riders and partners although workers’ awareness of such initiatives was limited. Careem, on the other hand, appears to have complete worker awareness about its accidental insurance policy.

Fair Contracts: None of the platforms we assessed have an effective process to notify workers in advance when changes are made in the Terms and Conditions. Contracts and Terms and Conditions are also often either absent from the platform interface or not provided in a language easily understood by all workers. In their Terms and Conditions, all the platforms absolved themselves from any liability arising from negligence or poor working conditions, which hindered workers’ ability to seek redress. Transparency regarding dynamic pricing and payment calculations was also lacking in all six platforms, denying workers insight into how their earnings are determined. Additionally, while Foodpanda, Bykea and GharPar are subject to local laws, the three internationally operating ride-hailing platforms, Careem, inDrive and Uber, are under foreign jurisdictions.

Fair Management: The six platforms we assessed all offer accessible communication channels, live chat support for issue resolution, and an appeals process that encourages workers to address concerns without penalties. The live chat feature of the apps allows riders to engage in real-time conversations with representatives, ensuring prompt assistance. Additionally, the platforms offer an appeals process for various concerns, such as low ratings, payment issues, deactivations, and penalties. Workers can utilize the platform interface, or dispatch (a rider support mechanism provided by some platforms) or visit the respective offices to initiate an appeal. However, this appeals process was not explicitly documented by any of the six platforms, either in the contract, the Terms and Conditions or on the platform interface. If they were to do so, these platforms would score the first point for Principle 4.

Furthermore, the workers we interviewed told us that they did not face any penalties for raising their individual concerns or appealing disciplinary actions. While two (Uber and GharPar) platforms have anti-discrimination policies in place, these are not oriented towards actively supporting the workers.

Fair Representation: Despite the increasing (but still sporadic) occurrence of platform worker organisation throughout the country, more evidence is needed that platforms are willing to acknowledge or engage with a collective body of workers. We could not identify any platform that met the criteria for this principle, indicating a disregard for the importance of organised representation in fostering fair working conditions.

While there have been a few instances of worker’s collective action such as Bykea workers demanding the reintroduction of bonuses and Careem workers successfully advocating for lower weight limits for parcels and the ability to remove negative ratings—these cases are limited.

Similar to what was reported last year, the current year’s data again shows that a significant subset of interviewed workers experience the phenomenon of negative income or platform debt. This is predominantly observed amongst ride-hailing workers, with delivery workers generally facing fewer financial challenges.

Urgent improvements are required, as highlighted by a proposed draft bill aligned with Fairwork Principles. Presently, platform workers in Pakistan lack labour protections due to their independent contractor status. A new draft bill aligned with Fairwork Principles aimed to enhance conditions, remuneration, safety, and protection by giving workers an employee status has been introduced in the report. It proposes transparency in algorithms, data protection, and human oversight. The bill aims to address discrimination, bolster workers’ rights, and create equity in the platform economy, recognizing the vital role of digital labour platforms.

What can I do? Fairwork Pledge

As part of Fairwork’s commitment to holding platforms accountable for their labor practices, particularly in promoting worker health, safety, and security, Fairwork invites Philippine organizations to announce their public support for decent working conditions in the platform economy by signing the Fairwork Pledge.

rganisations 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. 

More than 40 organizations, including GIZ, Solidarity Center, Learning Lions, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, and FES, have already signed the pledge. Join them in demanding a fairer future of work!