María Belén Albornoz
Principal Investigator of the Fairwork Project in Ecuador, Fairwork Foundation
Fairwork Ecuador Scores 2021: Rating fairness in the Latin American gig economy
The Fairwork Ecuador 2021 report evaluates the working conditions in six of the most prominent platforms in the country – Uber, Cabify, Glovo, Rappi, Encargos y Envios, and Ocre – against our five global principles of fair work.
Latin America has been at the center of recent debates about the precarious and unfair conditions of workers in the platform economy. With the project now present in four Latin American countries – Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil – this report presents the first set of Fairwork ratings for the region.
The gig economy model raises several challenges in developing countries such as Ecuador, which struggle to catch up with the technological infrastructure and regulatory framework needed to deal with these new industries. Like other countries in the region, the Ecuadorian economy is marked by a lack of infrastructure, a low-skilled labour force, and an unequal social structure. Although a relatively new phenomenon, the gig economy has gained increased momentum over the last four years, with both local and international platforms competing in the market. These platforms operate in a regulatory vacuum, offering easy access to jobs to the unemployed and migrant population, but at the risk of exploitative and precarious working conditions. This report estimates that the platform economy employed 40,000 workers nationwide, representing about 1% of the underemployed population. With many losing their job during the pandemic, we expect the numbers to have increased during the pandemic.
This report highlights how platform workers in Ecuador face many difficulties, including the absence of labour rights, volatile incomes, lack of social benefits, and precarious and exploitative working conditions. The situation of these workers was further afflicted by an increase in labour and health risks associated with the COVID 19 pandemic. The support they received from platforms and the government has been insufficient to protect gig workers from the pandemic.
Fuelled by the worsening conditions during the pandemic, gig workers in Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, and other Latin American countries gave rise to the first international gig worker movement. The report sheds light into the reasons that led workers to organize multiple transnational actions in 2020, demanding better working conditions and employee status. These gig worker movements and networks of solidarity represent a counterbalance to platform power, pushing for collective negotiations not just locally but also globally. However, the report highlights how gig workers’ associations in Ecuador still face significant limitations as they are not recognized as unions by the law. Furthermore, platforms have so far failed to acknowledge and listen to the collective voice of workers.
The ratings achieved by the platforms operating in Ecuador are very low, with no platform scoring more than three points out of ten.
Fair Pay: Across platforms, gig workers need to work the equivalent of a full-time job to earn over the legal minimum wage in Ecuador, which is relatively low. However, once work-related costs are factored in, only two platforms could prove that their workers earn minimum wage.
Fair Conditions: Only one of the six platforms could be evidenced to have adopted policies to protect workers from risks arising from their work. There was no evidence of platforms implementing measures to actively improve working conditions beyond mitigating task-specific risks.
Fair Contracts: Only two platforms provided terms and conditions in a clear, transparent and accessible form. Most platforms offer contracts governed by overseas jurisdictions, limiting workers’ ability to assert their rights through local legal channels.
Fair Management: No platform could be shown to allow due process for decisions affecting workers. Often workers do not have the ability to appeal deactivations or request information on reasons why these happened.
Fair Representation: There was no evidence of any platform having a documented process through which workers can express their voices collectively. None of the platforms was found to have recognized workers’ organizations or be willing to acknowledge workers’ collective voice.
Overall, our ratings reflect that there is much to be done to ensure fairness in Ecuador’s emerging platform economy. In a context of insufficient local regulation, coordinated international action and incentives are needed to offset the unbalanced power of transnational platforms.
Fairwork scores provide an independent assessment of platforms. By raising awareness of the conditions of gig workers in Ecuador, and across Latin America, Fairwork aims to assist workers, consumers and regulators in making platforms accountable for their practices.
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