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Phenix Center panel examines working conditions in platform economy

The Phenix Center for Economics and Informatics Studies on Wednesday held a panel discussion on improving working conditions for digital labor platform workers in Jordan and around the world.

The event was organized in collaboration with the Fairwork project, a research initiative based at the Oxford Internet Institute and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. It examines the standards and working conditions in the platform economy, according to a statement by Phenix center.

The project recently concluded its four-day summit hosted by Phenix Center in Amman, featuring discussions and research presentations on the opportunities and challenges associated with the platform economy, the statement added.

The panel discussion featured renowned experts from the global team of the Fairwork project, alongside experts from Jordan and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

It looked into the role of digital labor platforms in the global economy, and overviewed strategies to promote sustainable and fair work environments in the MENA region and around the world.

Experts also provided insights on how to best address pressing labor issues within the sector, including the inclusion of platform workers in social security schemes, and improving the “weak” regulatory framework of the sector.

Ahmad Awad, lead researcher for Fairwork Jordan and director of Phenix Center, said: “We believe that by bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise, we can generate meaningful discussions on how to shape the future of work in a manner that is fair, just and inclusive”.

He also noted that rapid technological developments are transforming the reality of work worldwide, leading to the emergence of new forms of employment and, at the same time, new challenges.

“Although platform work can help reduce unemployment and provide additional sources of income, it can also leave workers vulnerable to working conditions that don’t meet international labor standards due to the absence of a regulatory environment,” he added.

Former minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship in Jordan, Mothanna Gharaibeh, noted that organizing the sector in a manner that ensures fair standards and working conditions requires properly understanding its dynamics.

With the right legislative environment, platform work can help alleviate the issue of unemployment in Jordan; “it’s about using technology as a tool for justice to create opportunities where resources are scarce,” he added.

Batoul Al Mehdar, a senior researcher at The Access to Knowledge for Development Centre at the American University of Cairo, provided an overview of the platform economy in Egypt.

She noted that Egypt has a “sizeable” informal economy, as roughly 63 per cent of its labor force belongs to this class.

She added that although platform work created jobs amid high inflation rates and rising unemployment levels in Egypt, it remains fraught with risks and vulnerabilities that highlight the importance of organisation and government intervention.

Moreover, Mehdar stressed the importance of providing platform workers with social protection, because for many people in the MENA region, this form of work is a primary, rather than a secondary source of income.

Janaki Srinivasan, Associate Professor at the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, India, also agreed on the necessity of ensuring fair working conditions in the platform sector.

India is also faced by high levels of unemployment and informal employment with a marked increase in digital-technology-based gig work, according to Srinivasan.

Funda Ustek Spilda, a senior researcher and project manager at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, said that the Fairwork project is working on establishing a standard of working conditions that is applicable all over the world.

The project assesses digital labor platforms based on five principles aligned with international labor standards, including fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation, according to Spilda.

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