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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 September 2 - 8  > Coronavirus crisis raises risk of increasing labor exploitation in digital economy
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2020 September 2 - 8 [LABOR]

Coronavirus crisis raises risk of increasing labor exploitation in digital economy

September 8, 2020

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of independent contractors who receive contracts via the Internet has been spreading. The International Labour Organization designated them as “digital day labourers”.

Digital day labourers, including workers doing delivery jobs through on-demand apps such as Uber Eats, are in need of protection by labor laws. A widespread use of such a work style in the digital economy will create various problems.

The ILO expressed concern over the digitalization of the economy in a report released in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak. In the report entitled, “Work for a brighter future”, the ILO warned that the spreading of the digital economy would cause a resurgence of “nineteenth-century working practices” under which workers were rampantly exploited. It also pointed out that work in the digital economy is “sometimes poorly paid, often below prevailing minimum wages” and that “no official mechanisms are in place to address unfair treatment.”

However, the Japanese business circles are using the coronavirus crisis to urge the government to further relax labor regulations under the pretext that it is necessary to offer workers more options for working styles. The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), a major business lobby in Japan, in July released a proposal calling for the promotion of work style reforms that enable workers to work more flexibly in terms of place and time.

The ILO report states, “An international governance system for digital labour platforms should be established to require platforms (and their clients) to respect certain minimum rights and protections.”

It is necessary to put a stop to policies which increase poverty and inequality.

Past related articles:
> JCP Kasai calls for labor protections for gig-economy workers [February 5, 2020]
> Ultimate way to use disposable workers [January 31, 2020]
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