Digital platform jobs already have social protection - IDESA


Report Nº: 78523/12/2018

Digital platform jobs already have social protection

Argentina hosted the annual meeting of the Group of 20 (G20). It is a forum that brings together the presidents or prime ministers of the world’s most important countries. The objective is to articulate policies to address major global challenges. Priority themes are chosen each year. On this occasion it was the turn of infrastructure for development, sustainable nutrition and the future of the employment.

Regarding to the jobs of the future, the labour ministers of the G20 member countries expressed their concern about the economy of digital platforms. In particular, for social coverage in jobs emerging from applications such as UBER, Pedidos Ya, Glovo, etc., where two people agree that one will provide a personalized service to the other. Although the declaration is generic, there is a tendency to suggest that the providers and users of the platforms should assume the responsibility of contributing to social protection.

What kind of social protection do these occupations have in Argentina? Considering the main social contingencies, according to current regulations, a digital platform worker has at least the following rights:

  • If he/she has children, they qualify for the Universal Child Allowance (USD 45 per child per month) under the same conditions as a low-income registered wage earner.
  • If they get sick, they have free access to public hospitals, which is usually where low-income registered wage earners are also served.
  • If they reach the age of 65, they will receive the Universal Pension for the Elderly (USD 186 per month), which is equivalent to 80% of the minimum contributory retirement.

These data show that in Argentina there are coverage mechanisms that respond to the concerns declared by the G20. Universally, any citizen –regardless of his or her labour insertion (registered or informal wage earner, self-employed, unemployed or inactive)– has access guaranteed by the state to protect the three central events of life: childhood, health and old age.

Another critical approach against digital platforms is that they might be violating labour rights. Underlying is the idea that it would be a salaried employment relationship. It is a wrong focus since the platform worker enters and leaves the labor demand when he wishes, without schedules or production goals and accepts or denies the task according to his convenience. These characteristics associate him more to an independent worker, that is to say, to the 25% of the total of employed people who work as self-employed in Argentina. In line with this approach, a recent court ruling in the City of Buenos Aires ruled that UBER is a technology platform that allows users and drivers to enter into a contract between private individuals under the terms of the Civil and Commercial Code. It is an important precedent that sets the criterion that the interrelation of two people through a cell phone application is a contract between individuals, not a dependency labor relationship.

The importance of declarations such as those of the G20, in which formalisms prevails over substance, should not be exaggerated. The available evidence suggests that the jobs generated by digital platforms do not compete with or replace traditional salaried jobs, but generally complement them. A study carried out in the USA found that 80% of UBER drivers have another job and 50% dedicate less than 15 hours a week to UBER work, that is, it is an income supplement. It is also frequent that they operate as a part-time occupation done by women and youngsters seeking to supplement household income.

Improving the universal social protection system and establishing friendly regulations for both paid and independent work is the most efficient way to promote social justice. Along these lines, a context for the expansion of digital platforms is an appropriate way to increase employment opportunities by contributing to the dynamism of the labor market.

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