Logging in to the planetary labour market: what do employment trajectories of African platform workers reveal of the potentials of digital labour to contribute to socio-economic development in Africa?
Sanna Ojanpera (University of Oxford)
Mark Graham (University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
This paper investigates the employment trajectories of Africans working on online labour platforms and analyses the potentials and limitations of digital labour to contribute to inclusive socio-economic development on the continent.
Paper long abstract:
While globalization-induced changes together with technological development are reshaping the fabric of economic activity in Africa via various avenues, the emergence of digital platforms facilitating work online is a novel phenomenon with potentially significant impacts on the continent's labour markets. These online labour platforms (OLPs) are growing fast, host diverse types of work, and afford unforeseen connectivity across labour markets around the world. The increase in African OLP workers has been met with both concerns and aspirations about potential advantages for labour markets on the continent. Since the extent of the African workforce on OLPs and the socio-economic impacts of this work remain largely unknown, initial efforts to quantify and analyse this growth have recently gained visibility and contributed to a lively discourse around the suspected transformative impact of Africa's digital transformation. On one hand, working on OLPs may offer flexibility, increase incomes, and utilise and develop skills in professions that may not be as readily available in the local job markets. On the other, working on OLPs may only be an option for a subsection of the population and might additionally have unfavourable characteristics similar to the negative aspects of informal work such as low productivity, limited level of skill development, and low remuneration. This paper examines a novel dataset containing employment trajectories of Africans working on OLPs and through investigating the patterns in their income and skill development, analyses what may be the potentials and limitations of digital labour to contribute to inclusive socio-economic development on the continent.
- Transnational political economies of development