Future of Work and Policy Responses

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving a surge in gig work. Gig workers, a diverse group encompassing informal workers, independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm employees, on-call workers, and temporary hires, are becoming increasingly prominent in the workforce. This project aims to understand the nature and implications of gig work in South Africa in the Fourth Industrial Revolution context. The project seeks to understand how gig workers  experience work and employment relations to develop policy options for addressing their vulnerabilities via social policy reforms. Gig work has proliferated in South Africa, across the continent, and the rest of the Global South. It is often seen as a panacea for high levels of unemployment. It generally attracts vulnerable workers – those who are unable to access formal labour market opportunities.

The project focuses on two categories of gig workers: place-based gig workers (Checkers Sixty60 delivery bike drivers) and platform-based workers (M4JAM platform). The project aims to comprehensively assess the nature of their work, income levels, perceptions of the platform relationship, access to social safety nets, and awareness of labour rights. To gain a well-rounded understanding, the research will include interviews with both gig workers and platform owners, along with policymakers.

The project’s anticipated impact is to provide valuable insights into the challenges faced by gig workers in South Africa, particularly in terms of employment relations, social protections, and rights awareness. By addressing these issues, the project aims to contribute to promoting human development and reducing vulnerability among informal workers. The project could lead to improved access to social insurance, better working conditions, and increased awareness of rights among gig workers.

This project is supported by the CoE-4th Industrial Revolution and Human Development accelerator grant, awarded by the National Research Foundation via the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development. The contributions of funders, partners, and government stakeholders are essential for the successful implementation of the project.