Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainties have loomed over the platform economy sector. Blue-collar workers are particularly vulnerable as most of them do not have the opportunity to work from home and their income is highly volatile. In Bangladesh, digital platforms for ride-hailing and delivery such as Uber, Pathao, Foodpanda and Obhai, connect consumers and those who are able and willing to work as freelancers. For the blue-collar workers on these platforms, the pandemic-induced economic setback has left many in a more vulnerable position, indebted or jobless.
A central question of this new FES study by Mohammad Tareq Hasan, which is part of a research paper series on Shaping the Future of Work in Asia, is how platform workers evaluate their position in a work ecosystem where they are generally hired and treated as independent contractors but sometimes regulated as employees (in terms of obligation, not benefits). In the second half of 2020, structured interviews were collected from ride-hailing platform workers who had been with the platform for at least three months. The study examines the policy or regulatory deficits that have led to injustice and exploitation of the blue-collar workers in this new sector of the economy and offers policy recommendations to tackle some of the most pressing challenges.
The paper also explores the legal frameworks for ride-hailing platforms in Bangladesh in comparison to the situation in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Three themes that stand out and need urgent attention for establishing a collaborative governance system of the platform economy are the protection of rights and interests, reasonable safety for all and fair competition. The policy proposals presented thus cover workers’ rights, potential threats, and the vision of a more just work environment for blue-collar workers in the future.
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