The uneven potential of online platform work for human development at the global margins
This paper examines how online platform work both helps and hinders human development in the Global South. First, it outlines – all in a Global South context – the rise and nature of online labor platforms, the prevailing economic argument that they help human development, and how such development might be measured. It then reports on how online platform work provides significantly higher incomes than the local economy, especially for workers using specific technical skills, while their autonomy to perform varied tasks in their own time enhances their self-realization and self-fulfilment. However, it also reports on platform workers’ depressed wages, overwork, and job insecurity due to extreme labor oversupply, as well as their social isolation, opacity regarding clients, unclear legal responsibilities leading to local governments being deprived of tax revenue, customer discrimination, and being deprived of income and skill development opportunities as they are forced by reputation systems to rely on intermediaries for subcontracted work, all of which lead to extremely varied outcomes among the online platform workers.