The first-of-its-kind report titled "Gender and Platform Work: Beyond Techno-Solutionism" draws on research conducted over four years across 38 countries, 190 platforms and 5,000 worker interviews to investigate the experiences of women and gender minority experiences in platform work.
The report finds that women and gender minorities across the world acutely experience discrimination in multiple ways: through harassment and violence, multiple forms of unpaid work, automated inequalities and reduced opportunities to access work across multiple sectors, reads a press release.
Concerningly, the report demonstrates that it is platforms which rely on technological solutions such as unilaterally banning female workers from doing perceived 'unsafe jobs' or working at night and deploying intrusive surveillance measures that cement women and gender minorities' exclusion from the platform economy.
For example, in India, the food delivery platform Swiggy introduced a measure which automatically stopped women workers from using the platform after 6pm, resulting in women workers missing the post-6pm dinner peak.
In Indonesia, Grab introduced a programme called "Lady Grab" which blocked its women workers from receiving ride-hailing bookings, directing them instead to package and food delivery orders, to prevent longer contact time with clients.
However, interviews with workers reveal how these quick-fix technical solutions can lead to decreased earnings and increased platform control while doing little to keep workers safe or provide them with ownership over their work.
Dr Kavita Dattani, a co-author of the report said, "Technological solutions are often inadequate in solving inequities that emerge in platform work. This is because social problems emerging in platform work have long histories rooted in uneven power relations that pre-date digital platforms. Quick fix techno-solutions risk enhancing these problems, rather than solving them."
The authors of the report encourage platforms to engage in more meaningful conversations with worker collectives to build fairer mechanisms into platform work. Other measures that can improve gender equality include:
- Paying all workers a living wage, after costs and ensuring consistent earnings amongst them.
- Prioritizing workers' safety and access to benefits like parental leave, sick pay and insurance.
- Reimbursing workers for all costs and lost earnings in cancelled jobs.
- Implementing meaningful anti-discrimination policies, as well as mechanisms to test their effectiveness by regularly seeking worker feedback.
- Enabling interaction among women and gender minorities and collaborating with existing women and gender minority-led collectives, associations and trade unions.
The report highlights regulation as a crucial way to improve conditions for women in the platform economy. The authors urge policymakers to consider the experiences of the most invisible or disadvantaged workers to draft protections that will benefit the platform economy as a whole.
Dr Anjali Krishan, another co-author of the report said, "Left unchecked, commonplace platform work practices — such as failing to guarantee a living wage, safe working conditions and ignoring gender-based discrimination—risk widening the gender pay gap, reducing workforce participation rates of women and gender minorities as well as cementing gender inequality. This report is an in-depth look at how platforms can provide better and fairer conditions for women and gender minorities."