Addressing gender-based violence in the gig economy

Women in gig work

Digital platforms are increasingly being used to mediate between self-employed and informal workers and clients. These workers make up the majority of the labour market in low- and middle-income countries and have generally faced well-documented vulnerabilities. They have been particularly at risk of gender-based violence with little or no access to formal recourse. IDRC and international donors have invested in research to inform how organizations representing these workers — such as the Self Employed Women’s Association, HomeNet South Asia, and StreetNet — can support improvements in their working conditions. It is therefore important to understand how violence against these workers is replicated online.

Enhancing women’s agency on platforms

Some promising initiatives are emerging that may create better working conditions for women using digital platforms, although data and evidence remain limited. Globally, we have seen a rise in platform workers organizing for labour rights and engaging in legal battles to be recognized as employees with a right to basic protections. For example, workers on the Indian platform Urban Company, which provides in-home beauty services, organized a coordinated strike and sit-in, compelling the company to provide additional support, including a helpline.

The importance of better evidence

Lack of evidence on women’s choices and experiences surrounding digital, platform-based work makes it harder to develop solutions for a safe and violence-free workplace and adapt them to gender-based constraints. IDRC is supporting a research initiative on Women, Work and the Gig Economy, which aims to answer critical questions around how digital platforms can enhance women’s economic empowerment and build gender-inclusive labour markets in the Global South.

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