This publication arises from research funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) through the Future of Work in the Global South (FoWiGS) initiative coordinated by CIPPEC.
*The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of IDRC or its Board of Governors. This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.
The Ecuadorian economy is marked by a lack of infrastructure, a low-skilled labour force, and an unequal social structure. Although a relatively new phenomenon, the gig economy has gained increased momentum over the last four years, with both local and international platforms competing in the market. This trend was driven by the growth in internet connectivity and a large informal economy. Platforms operate in a regulatory vacuum, offering easy access to jobs to the unemployed and migrant population, but at the risk of exploitative and precarious working conditions.
This report highlights how platform workers in Ecuador face many difficulties, including the absence of labour rights, volatile incomes, lack of social benefits, and precarious and exploitative working conditions. The situation of these workers was further afflicted by an increase in labour and health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. With the rise in demand for delivery services during this period, they became essential workers.
In a context of insufficient local regulation, coordinated international action and incentives are needed to offset the unbalanced power of transnational platforms. A prominent example of this can be found in the growing organising power of gig workers’ movements in the region.
This report is the result of a one-year pilot project in Ecuador. It establishes a baseline on the current situation of the country’s platform economy that will be updated on a yearly basis. By raising awareness of the conditions of gig workers in Ecuador and across Latin America, Fairwork aims to assist workers, consumers and regulators in making platforms accountable for their practices.
IDRC has launched FOWIGS—a research program that will help understand how these changes are affecting the lives of the most vulnerable and suggest pathways for an inclusive digital future. The challenges are large and the questions are complex. But we need to face them now more than ever. Stay connected. Learn how.