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Research initiated and led by geographers at the University of Oxford has developed five principles for fair work organised by digital labour platforms.



Digital labour platforms represent a rapidly growing new economic model that provides income for at least 84 million workers worldwide, in sectors such as taxi ride-hailing, domestic/cleaning work, delivery and logistics, and freelancing. This platform-organised ‘gig work’ often falls outside the purview of traditional employment protections, and many workers experience precarity, low pay, and unsafe working conditions.



The researchers analysed the geography of digital labour markets around the planet. A multi-year study with digital workers in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia revealed four shared concerns: bargaining power, economic inclusion, intermediated value chains, and ‘upgrading’ of work. Additional research highlighted the high degree of algorithmic control that digital labour platforms exert over workers.

The team created the ‘Fairwork Foundation' – a participatory action-research project that evaluates the work conditions of digital labour platforms across the globe, scoring individual platforms on how well, or how poorly, they perform. This has resulted in the formulation of five “principles for fair work”.



In March 2019 and again in 2020, Fairwork published scores using the Principles framework for 10 platforms operating in South Africa. The ranked platforms included global providers (e.g. Uber, Bolt) and local businesses. As part of this process, six platforms engaged in direct dialogue with Fairwork researchers, with three, NoSweat, SweepSouth and GetTOD, subsequently making changes to align their practices with the Fairwork Principles.

The Fairwork Principles also played a role in a legal judgment in the UK, relating to gig economy workers’ rights in light of COVID-19, on the COVID-19 response policies of 120 platforms in 23 countries. As a result of this judgement, all UK workers now have the right to PPE and to refuse unsafe work.

In 2018, the Federal Government of Germany adopted the Fairwork Principles in its Digital Strategy, 'Shaping Digitalization: Implementation strategy of the Federal Government.'


More information

Institution: University of Oxford

Researcher: Professor Mark Graham 


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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Fairwork: Improving Working Conditions in the Digital Gig Economy. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>