Articles / Negative Impact of Online Platforms on Decent Working Conditions

OECD Negative impact of Online Platforms – Photography by Jeffrey Czum.

Negative Impact of Online Platforms on Decent Working Conditions

Online platforms are an essential part of daily life today. The OECD defines an online platform as a digital service facilitating interaction between independent sets of users who interact through the service via the internet.

People can communicate across the globe on Facebook, book a ride on Uber, or shop on Amazon. Other forms of online platforms offer services such as:

    • Online marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy
    • Search engines such as Google and Mozilla Firefox
    • App stores such as Google Play
    • Payment systems such as PayPal and Venmo
    • Communication services such as WeChat
    • Platforms for supporting the gig economy, such as Upwork
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Online Platforms on Decent Working Conditions

Online platforms give significant value to customers, businesses, and governments. They have significant potential to boost access to information, ease communication, and offer new opportunities to workers and entrepreneurs.

The emerging online platforms have been regulated within a limited regulatory framework. These regulations have been based on older business models creating discrepancies regarding applicability and suitability.

Online platforms negatively impact human rights and decent work conditions in the following ways.

Exposure to Hate Speech

Online platforms negatively affect the right to non-discrimination, according to Article 2 of the guidelines. People use social media to spread inaccurate and framed content causing grievous harm. Vulnerable people are denied their right to non-discrimination.

Impacts Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Free opinion and expression risk the lives of human rights defenders. These may fear expressing their opinion for fear of being under surveillance. AI bots influence social media, giving wrong information and biased views and opinions.

Denial of Right to Freedom of Association

Online platforms can deny the right to freedom of association in various ways. Governments can monitor individuals through social media to restrict their civic engagement. Platforms supporting the gig economy eliminate opportunities for collective bargaining of workers.

Negative Impact on the Right to Life and Security

People can use online platforms such as blogs and websites to broadcast and incentivize harm to people and compromise their security. This may be through live-streaming violent activity or terrorist attacks. Online platforms also increase access to illegal activity and illicit content.

Compromises the Right to Privacy

Online platforms usually collect sensitive data from customers, which become too risky in case of a breach. Intelligence agencies and law enforcement officers may request access to personal information about particular companies from these platforms. This puts users at risk since their information is shared without their consent.

Denial of Right to Participate in Government

People may circulate false information on online platforms to delegitimize the electoral process. This threatens the human right to participate in governance and free and fair elections. Politicians may use online platforms to spread false information against their opponents. Governments may request social platforms to deny some people access as a means of thwarting their political ambition.

Denial of Right to Work

Remote working platforms may deny other people the right to work. Employers may risk access to opportunities to people from particular locations. Online marketplaces usually rely on automation contributing to job losses and undermining unionized labor.

Online hiring platforms allow employees’ access to a pool of desperate potential workers worldwide. It puts current employers at risk of losing their jobs or working for low pay.

Comprises Labor Rights

Online remote working platforms widen opportunities for workers. Many people today rely on these platforms to secure their financial future. Workers benefit from low entry barriers, upskilling opportunities, and greater flexibility.

However, online platforms have limited pay scales, job security, payment, and exceptional protection compared to conventional employers. Working on online platforms inhibits collective bargaining and limits protection for traditional workers, such as minimum wage requirements.

Encourages “Attention Economy”

Social media platforms such as TikTok and Facebook, the “attention economy,” incentivize content that keeps people hooked. People can share content that encourages sharing of content that may encourage offline violence or death.

People, organizations, or governments may use online platforms to spread falsehood and propaganda for various aims, such as:

    • Influencing elections
    • Dividing societies
    • Securing economic gains
    • Recruiting intelligence sources
UN - migrant workers coming home due to virus

UN – migrant workers.

The Effect of Non-Decent Working Conditions in 2022

According to internationally recognized indexes, countries such as Qatar, Saudi-Arabia, India, China, North Korea, and Iran still have the most modern enslaved people by 2022.

Any humanitarian person in developed countries can agree that there are benefits of promoting decent working conditions, but what exactly are the benefits?

Social Benefits of Decent Working Conditions

There are many indicators that todays increased informal work are resulting in people working without employment contracts, especially in developement and non-OECD-countries.

The Growing Informal Sector

About 60% of all people are involved in the informal sector globally. People are exposed to unfavorable conditions at work and lack social benefits. The lack of opportunities attracts people to the informal sector, without any access to form or join a union.

The informal sector allows people to do hazardous jobs, circumstances, and conditions across all sectors. Informal sector units are usually small-scale, with workers who don’t earn a wage or aren’t organized in any way. Workers in the informal sector use precarious work processes and labor arrangements.

High Risk and Low Social Protection

They are usually unregistered and unregulated. Exposure to high risks with low social protection cover makes most informal workers live in vulnerable conditions. Since the poor dominate the informal sector, occupational risks are compounded by:

    • Poor housing
    • Lack of access to clean drinking water
    • Poor quality nutrition
    • Lack of essential health services

Working Overtime

Greater organizational flexibility encourages companies to make employees work overtime. This is where workers are made to work beyond normal business hours. Some of the reasons why employees make staff work overtime include:

    • Unexpected demand
    • Labor shortage
    • Extended season hours
    • Employee training

Working overtime has contributed to increasing non-traditional forms of work, which are unpredictable, and people work for longer hours. Working overtime benefits the company, increasing productivity and income. However, overtime encourages burnout and increases stress. Workers end up with problems with their mental health, and demanding overtime increases employee turnover.

Modern Slave Labor

About 50 million people across the globe are affected by modern slave labor today. Modern slavery is synonymous with forced labor. Many people are employed in dire conditions but can’t leave. Some of the reasons for forced labor include:

    • Employers withholding employees’ earnings
    • Migrants getting threatened with deportation
    • Withholding employees’ travel and identification documents

Joblessness resulting from the introduction of modern technology in the workplace encourages migrant workers. They end up working in the informal sector of their new countries, where they are denied rights to a workers union or better pay.

Other factors contributing to forced labor today include the COVID-19 pandemic and armed conflicts. These situations disrupt education and employment, leading to extreme poverty that makes people seek greener pastures as migrant workers. Unsafe migration heightens the risk of modern slavery.

Existence of Working Poverty

Some working people have incomes below the poverty line because of low-paying jobs or low combined family income. Working poverty is where people work, but their household income is below the national poverty line.

The people are working hard but need to improve their financial situation. People, who are discriminated against at work or suffer job loss because of the introduction of technology, end up working for anything, even when they live hand to mouth.


Improved technology and the adoption of digital systems improves the work process but may contribute to unforseen consequences like job loss, employee flight, and a risk of misconduct in developing countries. Digital control software is essential to an improved supply chain management in 2022.

Digitally Mapped Due Diligence Assessments can Combat Informal Work in the Supply Chain

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How Due Diligence Assessments can Help

If all companies in the world carries out and promotes due diligence assessments according to the OECD guidelines for multinational companies, and report their work once a year, the world will become a better place.

With a proper due diligence assessment your enterprise can get fundemental information needed to understand how they can impact how supplies are produced, and eventually how people are treated along the chain.

Doing this openly, meaning, sharing information with the public once a year is something that can inspire others to do the same. A lot of companies are allready spearheading their work with due diligence assessments according to the OECD-guidelines, so be on the look out for this on their respective websites.

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Seeing the Value of Due Diligence Assessments

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