Yogyakarta, 28th November 2019 - The phenomenon of “gig economy” has been massively evolving in this digital era. Online platforms have opened wider opportunities for job seekers to overcome unemployment by becoming “gig workers”. Moreover, these online platforms seem to offer countless promising advantages. Loopholes in the “gig economy” system, however, is one thing that we all should put our concerns into. Henceforth, CfDS brought up this topic through its 18th series of Difussion that was held in Antologi Collaborative Space on Thursday (28/11).
Ensuring Fair Labor Practice in the Era of Gig Economy
The term “gig economy” can be simply defined as the type of economy that provides temporary work, or it can only be counted for small projects depending on a precedent deal. This term is not a new thing since people in the past have already used this term to refer to freelancing jobs. Moreover, the increasing number of online applications in the digital age makes “gig economy” as a common thing that offers countless advantages, starting from the flexibility of working hours for the workers, to the emergence of new work variations. Nevertheless, reports have shown that “gig economy” workers often face a variety of disadvantages and threats in their work. Amelinda Pandu, as the Project Officer of Research at CfDS, presented a research that she conducted in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Banyuwangi on “gig economy” workers. Her research shows that drivers in Jakarta and Yogyakarta work for more than 12 hours in order to fulfill the required amount of bonus points. In Banyuwangi, drivers do not have proper health insurance. Amelinda further explained how the term “partner” promoted from the company to the drivers should have given a more decent and cooperative working system in which their rights can be more acknowledged.
Amelinda’s research further shows how “gig economy” workers actually finds several disadvantages such as underpayment, lack of safety protection, and skill trap. ‘In these online companies, the interests of the customer are often considered more important than the interests of the workers. Henceforth, the rights of the workers are often sidelined and ignored. The importance of the triangle of power (companies, workers, and customers) should be more balanced in this “gig economy" system’, she suggested. Amelinda believes that the workers involved must not succumb to the aforementioned “gig economy” conditions. Instead, we all have to put more pressure to the entities related, so that the workers' rights at this system of “gig economy” are fulfilled and make sure that those online companies do not abuse their power on the workers.
China’s “Gig Economy”: The Case of Ride-Hailing Company ‘Didi Chuxing’
The discussion was then followed by a research made by Yuliana Khong, as Research Associate at CfDS, about the “gig economy” in China, especially in the case of Didi Chuxing. In brief, Didi Chuxing is a Chinese ride-hailing company that has the largest amount of customers in the world. In China, it is considered as a monopoly for its 90% dominance on ride hailing business. Didi Chuxing has elevated its business through the utilization of artificial intelligence and big data analytics. ‘It’s more than just a transportation platform!’, said Yuliana.
Didi Chuxing has also accused for several maltreatments to the workers, such as the enforcement to work for more than 10 hours. To overcome this issue, China’s Two Sessions 2018 was held to discuss the “gig workers” insurance. To increase the security, Didi Chuxing implemented several features such as itinerary sharing, one touch S.O.S. button, and driver’s facial recognition system. Another unique fact is the “Communist Logo” attached to any driver affiliated with the party. Yuliana explained that culturally, communist-affiliated people in China are believed to be more trustworthy. Yuliana believes that Indonesian business entities related to “gig economy” can take an example from Didi Chuxing's strategy to realize security, strategic collaboration with the government, and applications that can go beyond providing transportation services.
A Glimpse of Australia’s “Gig Economy” Landscape
Other than China, the discussion also covered the Australian version of “gig economy”, focusing on the case of Uber as a ride-hailing company in Australia. From 2012 to 2017, Uber faced legal issues, when it was labeled as an illegal company by the Australian government. The local officers have warned its citizens that Uber was illegal. However, Australians, especially the youngsters, still grew their interest towards this online transportation application. Uber’s popularity grew significantly, where up until now, they have up to 4.7 million Australian users. To boost its security, Uber Australia owns a “Greyball” system, in which the system can track any entities that are overseeing them, including the police.
Lachlan Colgrave as Research Fellows at CfDS then explained how in Australia, there was a model Uber driver called Mark Aliprandi who’s been an Uber driver since the very first beginning of Uber Australia. He works for 10 hours a day amounting for 23.600 rides a year. He was a “convincing” testimony of Uber. However, in reality, Uber drivers can only gain 10 dollars a day. For its illegal operation, they cannot demand their rights for a proper payment.
‘Gig economy might be one of the solutions to overcome half of Australia’s underemployment problem’, explained Lachlan, while showing the rising percentage of underemployed people since the 1980s in Australia. Despite its many loopholes, Lachlan still believes that applications like Uber might be a solution to economic problems that the Australian society faces.
Author: Charissa Patricia
Editor: Raka Wicaksono