Future of Work in the Global South (FOWIGS): Digital Labour, New Opportunities and Challenges (Working Paper)

The digital economy, particularly location-based platforms, could potentially provide alternative forms of work to alleviate mass unemployment in many countries. Such platforms may offer opportunities to people who face unequal access to income-generating opportunities or endure systemic barriers to entry in traditional labour markets. However, their proliferation has raised concerns across the globe about the multitude of challenges and risks associated with the type of work facilitated by the location based platforms. This research was undertaken as part of a wider global South study across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Latin America, and South East Asia on the “Future of Work in the global South (FoWiGS)” project. The aim of the FoWiGS project was to identify the nature of multidimensional inequalities in developing countries and understand the extent to which involvement in the digital economy closes, reproduces or widens existing inequalities, especially for marginalised groups. Building on findings from the pre-COVID-19 pandemic global South FoWiGS Quantitative Report (QR) and the 2018 Research ICT Africa report on microwork across seven African countries, this report presents findings from an in-depth qualitative study of location-based platform workers’ in Cape Town and Johannesburg—two major cities that power the South African economy and are at the forefront of developments in digitally mediated work in SSA. The report also considers the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on already precarious platform work.