Digital labor platforms have increased five-fold worldwide in the last decade, from 142 in 2010 to over 777 in 2020, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Iran PressEurope: ILO's latest World Employment and Social Outlook 2021 survey conducted among some 12,000 workers, 86 enterprises, and 14 platform worker associations around the world in multiple sectors, focusing on two major types of digital labor platforms: online web-based platforms, where tasks are performed online and remotely by workers, and location-based platforms, where tasks are performed at a specified physical location by individuals, such as taxi drivers and delivery workers.

It showed that the digital economy boom and increasing platforms are transforming the way of working.

"I think the platforms enable many businesses to have access to a global workforce, to cut costs, and operate efficiently. And for many workers, the same story, they may have access to the labor market in new ways and the ways they might find very positive," said Guy Ryder, director-general at ILO.

But there are challenges as well as asymmetric information in salary, hours of work, safety and health, and social security.

"One of the questions about digital platforms is how we can guarantee the fundamental rights of working people on the platform," he said, adding a fact that it is quite difficult for the digital workers to get organized.

Ryder also said discrimination exists when platforms managing people through the use of algorithms rather than human resources in the classical sense, as algorithms aren't neutral objective mechanisms.

"They are programmed by human beings. They embody the assumptions, sometimes prejudices of those people," he explained.

The survey also showed that the majority of the workers, in both the taxi and delivery sectors indicated declining demand during the coronavirus pandemic, which had reduced the earnings for nine out of 10 taxi drivers and seven out of 10 delivery workers.

To compensate for the loss of income, some workers reported that they had started to engage in additional work activities, or provided taxi and delivery services outside the platform. Many had also reduced unnecessary expenditure, used savings, deferred payment of bills, or taken a loan.

The director-general called for international dialogue to build regulatory cooperation, saying that governments, business organizations, and workers, should work together to solve the problem.

"This is something urgent," he said.

"We spent many decades working out how we make sure working people have adequate pay, adequate social protection, adequate working hours, safety and health, in traditional forms of work. But the fact that matters is the things we put in place what we now regard as the traditional world of work. They don't really apply to digital platforms."

The report concluded that a way forward would be to engage in a process of global social dialogue aimed at ensuring that the opportunities arising from digital labor platforms are leveraged, and the challenges addressed so that digital labor platforms are best positioned to provide decent work opportunities, foster the growth of sustainable enterprises and contribute towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.