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Research finds Filipino gig workers suffer from platform-related financial insecurity, on top of health and safety risks

Fairwork report

Gig workers spend long hours on the road everyday. But after factoring in the cost of gas, mobile data credit, vehicle maintenance and repair costs, alongside loan payments for their vehicles, most workers cannot meet the basic minimum wage while also facing dangerous working conditions, a lack of safety nets, and long-term financial insecurity.

These are the main findings of the ‘Fairwork Philippines Ratings 2023: Protecting Worker Health, Safety, and Security in the Philippine Platform Economy’ report, launched today at De La Salle University in partnership with the University of Oxford.

The report, which evaluates 10 platforms in the ride hailing and delivery sectors such as Angkas, Borzo, GrabCar, Grab Food/Express, Foodpanda, Joyride, Joyride Car, Lalamove, Maxim, and TokTok focuses on gig worker health, safety, and security. Of a possible ten (10) points–a scoring system based on the principles of fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation–the highest-scoring platform tallied three (3) points.

  • Fair Pay – none of the ten platforms demonstrates their workers are guaranteed to be paid the minimum wage after costs.
  • Fair Conditions – one out of the ten platforms (GrabCar) received a point for providing workers sufficient protection from task-related risks.
  • Fair Contracts – four out of the ten platforms (GrabCar, GrabExpress/Food, Angkas (2W), and Lalamove) received a point for showing evidence of clear and accessible contracts or terms of service.
  • Fair Management – two out of the ten platforms (GrabCar and GrabExpress/Food) received a point for having formalized processes that allow workers to appeal decisions.
  • Fair Representation – none of the ten platforms allows for collective representation of workers.

Despite government and market forces continually promoting gig work as a viable livelihood opportunity for Filipinos, the findings of the Fairwork Philippines Ratings 2023 report shows no improvement in the conditions of workers in comparison to last year. The report shows that many platform workers are left to suffer conditions of financial insecurity and major safety risks due to limited protections.

According to Principal Investigator and DLSU Professor, Dr. Cheryll Soriano: “Many studies on platform labor assume that gig workers already have their own cars or motorbikes. In countries like the Philippines, many workers are attracted to the gig economy and go into loan and debt arrangements to gain access to vehicles, helmets, onboarding costs, and mobile devices, with the hope that they can recover these costs through gig work.”

She adds further: “Platform-related indebtedness, a major finding in this year’s study, pertains to a situation where gig workers become indebted – to informal money lenders, vehicle companies, operators, and contractors – in the aspirational process of gaining access to platform work — only to experience financial insecurity as they assume the costs of production that platforms do not shoulder. The end result is the rider or driver being chained to platform labor for survival, working longer and harder hours to make a living.”

One two-wheel delivery rider, for instance, earns a daily average of P750 – which seems to be above the minimum wage. But not after factoring daily work-related costs such as P150 for gas, P20 for mobile and data load, and P30 for vehicle maintenance and repairs. He also pays a monthly amortization for a motorbike that when computed on a daily basis is P90. This leaves him with a take home pay of P460 after working for 11 hours. He has one rest day a week and his income supports two children. Meantime platforms are guaranteed at least 20% commission for each completed ride or delivery.

On top of these costs and hours of unpaid waiting time that hundreds of thousands of gig workers shoulder are the safety risks and lack of accessible insurance mechanisms. Aside from tedious insurance claims processes, many platforms even ask workers to shoulder the cost of their own insurance.

According to Dr. Virgel Binghay, Co-Investigator and Professor at the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations: “Platforms must adopt measures that include free group life and accident insurance coverage, which should be accessible to workers, alongside assurances that their ability to work will not be limited during claims processing.“ The study also spotlighted conditions of harassment of female workers. Binghay says: “Platforms must have welcoming and responsive mechanisms to encourage workers to report experiences of bullying and harassment without consequence to their accounts, ratings, tiers, or incentives.”

Amid the growing number of Filipino workers and families dependent on the gig economy, the findings point to the importance of thinking about the platform economy as a long-term feature of work — one that requires platforms to step up not just in ensuring a livable wage, but also in providing robust occupational health and safety measures.

Atty. Jayvy Gamboa, Faiwork PH legal consultant and policy associate at Manila Observatory, highlighted three policy recommendations: (1) to establish a legal framework that grants gig workers, regardless of their employment status, rights, benefits, and protections equivalent to traditional employees, most especially the assurance of living wages after cost; (2) government-mandated social security and health insurance; and (3) compensation and insurance coverage for work-related illness and injury. He further adds: “If we do not attend to this now, we will have a large segment of our labor force in the near future that is physically depleted yet without access to insurance or protection, which reinforces cycles of insecurity and poverty.”

Tobias Kuttler of WZB Berlin Social Science Institute said: “Since 2018, Fairwork has documented 201 changes and improvements made by platforms globally to improve working conditions. We hope platforms operating in the Philippines and the policy makers would follow suit in promoting critical and urgent pro-worker reforms.”

For more information, please contact Dr. Cheryll Ruth Soriano at [email protected] or [email protected].


About the research

The report was funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The findings are based on desk research and interviews with platform managers and workers based in Metro Manila and other provinces in the Philippines between December 2022 to June 2023. The ‘Fairwork Philippines Ratings 2023’ report is now available on the Fairwork website.

About Fairwork

Fairwork is an action-research project coordinated by the Oxford Internet Institute and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Through a global network of researchers, Fairwork evaluates the working conditions on digital platforms and ranks them based on five principles of fair work. The five Principles of Fairwork were developed through an extensive literature review of published research on job quality, stakeholder meetings in Geneva (involving platform operators, policymakers, trade unions, and academics), and in-country meetings with local stakeholders. Globally, Fairwork collaborates closely with workers, platforms, advocates, and policymakers to envision and build a fairer future of work. See here for a list of collaborating institutions.

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