Digital labour and development: Impacts of global digital labour platforms and the gig economy on worker livelihoods

As ever more policy-makers, governments and organisations turn to the gig economy and digital labour as an economic development strategy to bring jobs to places that need them, it becomes important to understand better how this might influence the livelihoods of workers. Drawing on a multi-year study with digital workers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-east Asia, this article highlights four key concerns for workers: bargaining power, economic inclusion, intermediated value chains, and upgrading. The article shows that although there are important and tangible benefits for a range of workers, there are also a range of risks and costs that unduly affect the livelihoods of digital workers. Building on those concerns, it then concludes with a reflection on four broad strategies – certification schemes, organising digital workers, regulatory strategies and democratic control of online labour platforms – that could be employed to improve conditions and livelihoods for digital workers.

Graham, M., Hjorth, I. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2017) ‘Digital labour and development: impacts of global digital labour platforms and the gig economy on worker livelihoods’, Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research, 23(2), pp. 135–162.


  • Case study-worker, Research publication
  • Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Yes
  • no specific sector focus
  • motivation for platform work, representation, industrial relations, social dialogue, Sector aspects, competition, lobbying, work organisation, worker demographics
  • English
  • Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research (Publisher)
  • Qualitative research, Quantitative research
  • 2017
  • Subscription
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