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Panel 18. Digital labour platforms and the future of work in the Global South and Global North


  • Dr Lutfun Nahar Lata, Lecturer, School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • A/Prof Cheryll Ruth R. Soriano, Department of Communication, De La Salle University, Manila.


Today’s workforce has an abundance of computing resources. Cloud computing, digital platforms, big data, and computation intensive automation have changed the traditional labour markets, and the rules that regulate the workforce. Companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Uber, and Deliveroo use online structures that have opened up new forms of activities, which tend to replace traditional labour market relations. In particular, the ‘platform’, ‘gig’, ‘sharing’ and ‘on- demand’ economies have become increasingly important focuses of research, particularly on how intermediary platforms build, connect, and reconstruct the social relations among labourers, consumers, and businesses. Digital labour platforms are the newest technological wave that is reshaping and reconfiguring the economic and labour landscape. These digital labour platforms encompass a broad range of services that rely on an ever-growing labour pool to respond to on- demand requests. Digital labour platforms are increasingly adopting app-based models to connect consumers with workers to complete their on-demand tasks. These on-demand apps have created new labour markets that have transcended borders and rely on a revolving door of workers to complete both local and global service tasks. This is reshaping the gig economy through technological innovation, which requires new labour relationships to respond to the needs of on- demand apps.

Digital gig work is based within the platform economy where markets are based on platforms that facilitate interactions between buyers and sellers and provides irregular work to gig workers based on customer demand. Work can be sourced locally or globally, with clients able to utilise platform apps to interact across spatial lines. Global estimates posit 70 million workers registered with platform apps, with user growth of online platforms at 26% annually. There is a disparity in views on the gig economy, with high-income country policymakers concerned about the casualisation and fragmentation of work and the paid per piece model undermining minimum standards of work. However, low- and middle-income countries view gig work as a possible poverty reduction mechanism, which can digitally supply jobs across borders and foster economic growth. This indicates that the emergence and expansion of gig economy have not followed the same trends in the Global South and Global North. Additionally, existing research shows that the gig economy workers are discriminated against based on their gender, race and migrant status. Within this context, this panel invites submissions that address the following issues, or other issues pertinent to contemporary governance of the gig economy:

  • The variegated nature of digital labour platforms and their operations in the Global South and Global North countries
  • Intersectional approach to the gig economy
  • Resistance in the gig economy

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