Study identifies challenges in sustaining online work in PH

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While digital labor platforms opened market work opportunities during the pandemic, it also posed major implications on skill formation and human capital development, especially in countries where online work is at the lower end of the value chain.

This is highlighted in a recent study of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

According to the study, the advancements in information and communications technology paved the way for a new work arrangement mediated by digital platforms. 

As a result of these developments, certain segments of the population “may be naturally drawn to online work”. These include young people who are adept at navigating online tools and resources and women who “are responsible for the care economy and housework”.

Thus, these labor platforms can help achieve the sustainable development goal targets on women empowerment and gender equality, and eradicate poverty. 

However, authors PIDS senior research fellows Connie Bayudan-Dacuycuy, Aniceto C. Orbeta Jr., Ramonette B. Serafica, and research assistant Lora Kryz C. Baje identified several challenges.

One of these is the absence of grievance mechanisms in digital labor platforms.

The study found that the “lack of interaction with other workers, and time management due to the workers’ housework responsibilities or full-time jobs” are linked to the “lack of collective organization and weak voice of platform workers” in the Philippines.

It also revealed that the absence of social protection, intersecting with the increasing participation of young people in platform work, may widen coverage gaps and the weakening of the sustainability of social protection schemes. This may also “exacerbate gender inequalities”.

Moreover, the study showed that many Filipino online workers (around 25%) are engaged in low value-added jobs, such as clerical and data services.

Only around 14 percent of Filipino online workers are doing tasks related to software development and technology. This is relatively low compared to the proportion of similar workers in India, Pakistan, and Vietnam, at 59 percent, 45 percent, and 52 percent, respectively.

To address these challenges, the authors provided some recommendations.

One is to improve the visibility of platform work through a well-thought-out taxonomy and data collection method.

Another is to strengthen the social protection system to prevent the widening of coverage gaps and gendered inequalities. According to the study, there are national labor laws that ensure workers’ security entitlements; however, the benefit provision for online work is yet to be included in the labor code.

They also stressed the need to consider the platform economy as an area of cooperation among Asian nations.

The authors also proposed the creation of an ecosystem of skills development and training support that is useful for any work setting.

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