Talk by Dr. Uma Rani Amara, International Labour Organization, Work and income security among workers in on-demand digital economy:Issues and challenges in developing economies

The Center for Information Technology and Public Policy (CITAPP)

International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB)

organised a talk titled

Work and income security among workers in on-demand digital economy:

Issues and challenges in developing economies


Uma Rani Amara

International Labour Organization (ILO) Geneva

2.30 PM on 24 August, 2018 (Friday)

Venue: Room 310, IIITB campus

26/C, Electronic City, Hosur Road, Bangalore

About the talk: This talk will argue that, against common perceptions, online labour markets, in their current form, might not be the ‘silver bullet’ for development. Based on novel survey data collected on five globally operating microtask platforms, the paper analyses the working conditions on these platforms and discusses the challenges and opportunities for crowdworkers in developing countries. The paper explores the extent to which the seemingly flexible work ensures work and income security and provides opportunities for skill development. The findings show that crowdworkers in developing countries work long and unsocial hours to earn meagre returns, with around 70 per cent of the workers earning less than the average of $2.72 per hour for paid work and $2.10 per hour when unpaid work is taken into consideration. Their earnings are lower than those of their Western counterparts wherein on average American workers earn 2.5 times much as per hour as Indian workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk. We further find that a majority of crowdworkers are very highly educated and are engaged in low-end tasks, with little opportunities for career advancement or increasing their earnings. The paper also discusses the role that trade unions, civil society organizations and technology could play in creating decent working conditions on platforms and improving outcomes for all.

Note: This talk draws from a paper co-authored with Marianne Furrer, Research Officer, ILO.

Speaker Bio: Uma Rani Amara is Senior Economist at the Research Department and joined the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2008. She holds a Ph.D. in Development Economics from the University of Hyderabad, India. Prior to joining the ILO she was an Associate Professor at Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad, India. She has also held Visiting Fellow positions at Institute of Developing Economies, Japan; ETH-NADEL, Zürich and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Paris. Her main research interest lies in development economics, the informal sector, minimum wages, social policies and gender. Her current research focuses on minimum wages in developing economies, income inequality, global supply chains in the electronics sector and the platform or gig economy, wherein she explores how labour and social institutions could be strengthened to address economic and social inequality.

CITAPP at IIIT Bangalore is an interdisciplinary think-tank set-up to focus on the policy challenges and the organizational demands made by technological innovation. Of particular interest to the Centre is how technological advances, along with institutional changes that harness the legitimacy and the powers of bureaucracies and market, address the needs of underserved communities.