As more and more workers get engaged in Bangladesh’s gig economy, it is important to evaluate the fairness of the working conditions in this growing sector of the economy. A new report by Fairwork Bangladesh, a collaboration between DataSense and the University of Oxford, has found major concerns about the overall pay and working conditions in Bangladesh’s top ridesharing and delivery platforms.
10 of the most popular gig economy platforms in Bangladesh, including Pathao, Uber and Food Panda, have been rated according to how fairly they treat workers. The scores awarded were very low for all platforms, with no platform receiving more than one point out of ten. These results reflect an absence of labour protections in the platform economy, as in the local informal economy more widely, leaving substantial room for improvement.
The study found that Car Bangla, Hungrynayki, Obhai, Shohoz Foods, Truck Lagbe, and Uber all received zero out of ten points, as they failed to prove they meet any of the minimum standards of fair work – such as ensuring all workers earn above the national minimum wage. In fact, the report found that a proportion of workers are in platform debt, meaning their costs exceed the income they receive from the platform. Working through middlemen, high platform commissions and maintenance costs, and lack of platform accountability were the most important factors leading workers into debt.
This is the first study of its kind in Bangladesh, scoring companies on labour standards such as pay, conditions, contracts, management, and representation.
Dr. Murali Shanmugavelan, Fairwork Bangladesh’s Lead Researcher, said: “For the first time we have looked at companies offering rideshare and 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.”
Co-author Dr. Ananya Raihan said: “The study actually revealed how the platforms were short of sight in taking care of the platform workers. I believe, in the following year, the scores of platforms should improve significantly by taking appropriate steps. We look forward to working together on this. ”
- Fair Pay – 9 of the 11 platforms could not prove that none of their workers earns below the minimum wage.
- Fair Conditions – only 2 out of the 10 platforms can prove they provide workers sufficient protections from work-related risks.
- Fair Contracts – only 1 out of the 10 platforms analyzed provided evidence of clear and accessible contracts or terms of service.
- Fair Management – None of the 10 platforms assessed could prove they have a formalized process where workers can appeal decisions.
- Fair Representation – only four platforms, Uber, Pathao, Obhai, and CarBangla, could evidence the existence of channels for collective worker representation. However, no platforms have recognized or entered collective bargaining with worker bodies.
Publishing this study, researchers from DataSense and the Oxford Internet Institute, are calling for stronger protections and more robust labour standards in the Bangladeshi platform economy.
Representing the gig workers, Belal Ahmed, General Secretary of Dhaka Ridesharing Drivers Union, pressed on the matter of how the riders’ security falls at risk due to the unavailability of the feature of knowing about the destination, before starting the ride. Additionally, he conveyed the problems faced by the riders because of the commission rate charged by the platforms, the lack of sufficient independence, the absence of a proper system to place complaints, and, majorly, the gig workers not being acknowledged under the Labor Law.
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 organizations, such as universities, companies, and investors, to announce their public support for decent working conditions in the platform economy, guided by the five principles of Fairwork.
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 Bangladesh league table demonstrate 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 realize that ambition through the launch of the Fairwork Pledge. We urge organizations 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-specific Fairwork rating reports for India, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, Chile, Ghana, and Ecuador. The Fairwork team has also published reports on the impact of Covid 19 and the gig economy.
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About the research
The report was funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).. The findings are based on desk research and interviews with platform workers and managers. The full report is available here.
Fairwork is a global project based at the Oxford Internet Institute and the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre. Through a global network of researchers, Fairwork evaluates working conditions on digital platforms and ranks them based on five principles of fair work. Globally, Fairwork collaborates closely with workers, platforms, advocates, and policymakers to envision and build a fairer future of work.
DataSense is the strategic business unit at iSocial for research, data intelligence and management consultancy, which offers services to corporate, non-profit, government and development agencies in Bangladesh and abroad. The DataSense team is a combination of professionals from various disciplines, educated and trained in Bangladesh and abroad. The research team works out of Bangladesh, the UK and the USA.