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Platform work in Ghana fails basic job quality standards — New report finds

By Janet Alamisi Dabire
Research Findings Platform work in Ghana fails basic job quality standards — New report finds
DEC 2, 2021 LISTEN

Food delivery and ride-hailing platforms offer income opportunities to thousands of Ghanaians. But new research by the University of Oxford and the University of Ghana Business School found many of these workers face low pay and dangerous conditions. 10 major gig economy platforms in Ghana have been rated according to how fairly they treat their workers. Black Ride topped the ranking with a score of 7 out of 10. The study found that most companies, including household names like Bolt, Jumia Food, and Uber, are yet to meet minimum standards of fair work - such as offering a living wage or minimum protection against accidents. This is the first study of its kind in Ghana, comparing labour standards in digital labour platforms across pay, conditions, contracts, management, and representation.

The report estimates digital labour platforms have created work opportunities for an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 Ghanaians, providing much-needed income and livelihoods to many. However, these workers face multiple challenges, from poor wages to violence at work. Platforms in Ghana like many places classify workers as independent contractors or self-employed, meaning they have little recourse to formal employment rights. Under these classifications, they are not entitled to fundamental labour rights, including the right to work under satisfactory, safe, and healthy conditions and form or join a trade union to bargain for better conditions are denied by these platforms.

Prof. Richard Boateng, Project Lead and a Professor of Information Systems at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) said: "For the first time, we have looked at companies offering e-hailing and food delivery services to rate them on how they treat their workers. This provides a helpful guide for both regulators and customers who use these platforms. In this report, we found Black Ride is the highest scoring platform, while popular platforms like Bolt, Uber or Jumia Foods scored only 1 point out of 10. After Fairwork's engagement with some of the platform managers, several platforms including Black Ride have made changes to their policies to improve working conditions such as setting up an anti-discrimination policy and announcing their willingness to negotiate with unions or workers associations. However, the fact that most platforms are yet to meet basic standards shows the need for further intervention in the sector".

The new report, "Fairwork Ghana Ratings 2021: Labour Standards in the Platform Economy" co-authored by the Fairwork Ghana Country Manager, Prof. Thomas Anning-Dorson, ranked each platform operating in Ghana (Uber Bolt, Bolt Food, Yango, Black Ride, Swift Wheel, IFerch, Eziban, Jumia Food and Glovo) against Five Fairwork Principles, giving each company a score out of ten. The team finds that the majority of platforms analysed are yet to meet the basic standards of fairness when benchmarked against the Fairwork principles.

Key findings from the report:

  • Fair Pay – No platform could guarantee that their workers earn enough to make a decent living after covering for work-related costs.
  • Fair Conditions – Half of the platforms have taken actions to protect workers from work-related risks. However, unsafe working conditions remain a major concern among workers interviewed.
  • Fair Contracts – Only 2 out of the 10 platforms analysed provided evidence of clear and accessible contracts or terms of service.
  • Fair Management – Half of the platforms assessed by researchers have a formalised process where workers can appeal decisions.
  • Fair Representation – Only 2 platforms, Black Ride and Eziban, allow for collective representation of workers.

Publishing this study, researchers from the University of Oxford and University of Ghana Business School, are calling for stronger protections and more robust labour standards in the Ghanaian platform economy.

Bismark Fiifi, Tetteh, Chairman, National Alliance of Digital Drivers Union - Ghana (NADDU) said – "As worker unions, we are delighted that Fairwork has come in to set the standards for fair working practices in the Ghanaian platform economy. The Fairwork principles are tried and tested in different countries and provide the needed benchmark for the assessment of all digital platforms in Ghana. From now on, there will be no hiding place for platforms that have deliberately ignored the plight of platform workers in Ghana. The scores awarded to the platforms in this report confirms what workers have been saying for the past few years. We call on platforms to begin to engage with us if indeed they regard us (drivers) as partners. We also call on the government and parliament to revise Ghana's labour laws to cover the new forms of work brought about by the digital revolution. We believe the Labour Department should use the Fairwork benchmark to regulate the labour practices of all digital platforms''.

As part of Fairwork's commitment to holding platforms accountable for their labour practices, the project has launched the Fairwork Pledge. The pledge aims to encourage other organisations, such as universities, companies, and investors to announce their public support for fairer working conditions in the platform economy guided by the Fairwork ratings.

Professor Mark Graham, Professor of Internet Geography at Oxford Internet Institute and Director of Fairwork, said: "The low scores of many popular platforms in the Fairwork Ghana league table clearly demonstrates the need for regulatory intervention to ensure gig workers are no longer falling through the cracks, further exacerbated through the pandemic. As part of our vision for a fairer future of work, we're setting out a pathway to realise that ambition through the launch of the Fairwork Pledge. We urge organisations and investors to sign up to the pledge today and help our vision of fair work become a reality for all platform workers."

This latest report builds on the findings of previous country reports for South Africa, India, UK, and Germany. The Fairwork team has also published reports on the impact of Covid 19 and the gig economy.

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