Increasing women's participation in platform work is fundamental to the Decent Work Agenda

Opening remarks by Mr Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director and Officer-in-Charge, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi, at - Understanding and improving women's work on digital labour platforms Stakeholder Consultation Workshop in India

Statement | New Delhi, India | 27 July 2023
I would like to welcome you to the consultation workshop on the platform economy.

Over the past decade, digital platforms have gained a lot of attention, particularly in policy circles like the G20 and BRICS Ministerial meetings. These platforms have brought forth both opportunities and challenges for both workers and businesses, leading to extensive deliberations. Notably, during the recent G20 Labour and Employment Ministers meeting, three major policy strategies were adopted. These strategies focus on addressing the skills gap, providing adequate and sustainable social protection, and ensuring decent work for gig and platform workers.

The ILO has been actively engaged in addressing issues concerning digital labour platforms since 2015. The ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted during the International Labour Conference in 2019, emphasized the need to respond to challenges and opportunities in the realm of work, including platform work. The goal is to promote inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all including the extension of social protection.

In 2021, the ILO published its flagship World Employment and Social Outlook report titled "The Role of Digital Labour Platforms in Transforming the World of Work." This comprehensive report offers a global perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by workers and businesses operating on digital labour platforms. Drawing insights from extensive surveys and interviews with workers worldwide, the report sheds light on the realities of workers in this evolving landscape.

Last year, a tripartite meeting of experts with social partners was organized in Geneva followed by the ILO's Governing Body requesting the office to prepare a normative gap analysis to assess how well the existing conventions and recommendations can ensure decent working conditions for gig and platform workers. After discussions and deliberations in March 2023, the Governing Body decided to hold a double discussion on "decent work in the platform economy," and the office is actively working towards preparing the different documents in preparation for this meeting. An important element for this discussion, is to conduct research and build empirical evidence so that we can have informed discussions and deliberations.

The ILO report in 2021 had already underscored that while digital labour platforms offer income-generating opportunities for workers, there are significant challenges regarding pay, regular work availability, and lack of social protection. Notably, these challenges are more pronounced for women workers, particularly in developing countries. In India, the ILO conducted a study on “Understanding and improving women's work on digital labour platforms”. This study builds upon existing work on the platform economy and aims to gain a deeper understanding of the platform economy's rise, with a specific focus on women workers. You will hear more about this from my colleague Uma Rani and other researchers who were part of this study in a short while.

In July 2021, we organized an inception workshop where the findings from the scoping study was presented. This workshop had provided a comprehensive picture of the penetration of digital labour platforms across different sectors of the economy. The scoping study helped us to identify several sectors where platforms had penetrated, and we chose these sectors to conduct surveys in multiple cities. The surveys were conducted in the following sectors: beauty workers, healthcare, taxi services, delivery, tutoring, medical consultation, e-commerce, online freelance, microtask, talent platforms, and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) companies experiencing rapid growth in digital work. In addition, surveys were also conducted in BPO companies where digital piece rate work or microtask work is increasing in a fast pace. The project was implemented in India by The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) and The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), in close collaboration with colleagues in the ILO. The research team in close collaboration with the ILO has been conducting the surveys and analysing the results.

Today, we organize a final stakeholder workshop to share the findings from our research project on "Understanding and Improving Women's Work on Digital Labour Platforms." The study findings will contribute towards enhancing the capacity of constituents to provide adequate labour protection for workers engaged in diverse forms of work arrangements, including digital labour platforms and informal employment. The findings of this study will culminate in a report titled "Emergence of Digital Labour Platforms in India: Ensuring Decent Working Conditions," scheduled for release by the end of 2023.

In an emerging country like India, where digital labour platforms have been gaining prominence and are increasingly seen as a source for creating work opportunities, this study aims to build knowledge on some key aspects that include:

- The extent of penetration of digital labour platforms across various sectors and its implications for workers and businesses.
- Income-generating opportunities provided to workers through these platforms, with a particular focus on women workers in different occupations.
- The existence of occupational segregation based on gender on these platforms.
- The challenges workers face in accessing remunerative work and the prevailing working conditions.

An essential objective of this project is to generate knowledge that can inform and empower social partners and other key stakeholders to promote decent work for all in the platform economy. In the last session today, we will open a new national stakeholder dialogue on extending social protection to digital platform workers in India supported by the project funded by the Government of Japan. This issue has been included in the new Code of Social Security adopted in 2020 and various developments have been observed both at the Centre and State recently. To support the initiatives of extending social protection to digital platform workers Globally, the ILO Governing Body approved to advance the agenda concerning decent work on digital platform workers to the standard-setting discussion at the International Labour Conference in 2025. We are eager to hear your perspectives on the ongoing digital transformations and the rise of the platform economy.

Your engagement and support are vital in building a better understanding of the platform economy in India, with a particular emphasis on women workers, and in ensuring decent working conditions for all workers, including women. Ultimately, we recognize the importance of addressing the challenges and harnessing the full potential of technological progress and digitalization, including platform work, to create decent jobs and sustainable enterprises.

With these words, I wish you all a productive discussion and a positive outcome in advancing the discourse on issues related to the platform economy.