The percentage of workers on home delivery and passenger transport platforms is growing in Ecuador, in part due to the lack of job opportunities for immigrants.
About 55,000 people work for passenger transport platforms and home deliveries in Ecuador.
That means that in the last year the number of delivery drivers and mobile application drivers grew 38%. This is supported by the report Fairwork Ecuador Scores 2022: Labor Standards in the Platform Economy.
The study, published on July 5, was prepared by the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso) and the University of Oxford .
The increase in delivery people and drivers of digital platforms responds, in part, to the rise of electronic commerce.
But, above all, it is due to the deterioration of the labor market due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of opportunities that immigrants have in the country.
The percentage of delivery platform workers is increasing because more than half a million immigrants , from Venezuela and Colombia, have difficulty finding suitable jobs in Ecuador, according to the Flacso study.
Immigrants face fewer job opportunities by not having a visa to enter Ecuador, in the case of Venezuela, and by staying more than 90 days in the country, in the case of Colombian citizens.
For this reason, immigrants, who flee their countries due to violence, insecurity and poverty, are more likely to be unemployed or work informally.
In this context, digital platforms are one of the few sources of income that immigrants have.
Although, working on them is not easy either, as a black market has proliferated , says the report.
“Many immigrants have not been able to apply for an account on the platforms due to lack of documentation, local residence, work permit or a driver’s license from Ecuador,” says the study.
In this context, immigrants are forced to “rent” accounts that are managed by Ecuadorians or other immigrants who have papers, who charge a fee for facilitating these profiles on the platforms.
This illegal subcontracting structure exposes immigrants to a risk of exploitation and job insecurity by those who rent the accounts. Also by the same platforms, which take advantage of this reality to modify their conditions, says the report.
Renato (protected name) is one of the immigrants who has been working for home delivery applications, since before the pandemic, and has experienced these changes on the part of the platforms.
In the last year, Renato has seen his income decrease due to changes in platform fees . To this are added sanctions for not accepting races or not meeting delivery times.
The deterioration of the labor market is another factor that pushes workers to use digital platforms as an employment option.
67% of the Economically Active Population (EAP) was unemployed or working in informal conditions in May 2022. Before the pandemic, it was 62% of the EAP.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines informal employment as paid work that is not registered, regulated or protected by legal frameworks. It is also the unpaid work that is done in a company that generates income.
“Informal workers do not have employment contracts , labor benefits, social protection or representation of workers,” details the ILO.
The lack of opportunities in the formal labor market is a reality experienced by Alicia, a 28-year-old economist, who had to close her business during the pandemic.
To earn income, Alicia began working as a driver on a passenger transport platform in January 2022.
For her, the platform is a source of money, although it does not reach the basic salary, despite working more than 40 hours a week.
“The pandemic accelerated the appearance of new organizations that generate work, although it is temporary, which can lead to precariousness,” explains José Sáenz, an expert on labor issues and a former consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Poor working conditions
The study by Flacso and the University of Oxford analyzed the working conditions offered by 10 of the largest digital platforms operating in the country, which offer home delivery and passenger transport services.
Although applications for shopping assistants and cleaning and home care services were also considered.
On a ten-point system, in which payment, contracts, working conditions, management and representation are evaluated, four platforms of Ecuadorian origin, including Asoclim , showed better parameters of fair work .
In contrast, six international platforms could not show any fair labor parameter .
Even three of the international platforms that were evaluated the previous year have worsened their working conditions in 2022.
Since August 2021, the National Assembly has been debating a bill to improve the conditions of platform workers, considered “independent contractors”. With this classification, companies are not legally obliged to protect workers.
So far, legislators have not been able to formulate a legal proposal that includes hourly work, and the fulfillment of fair working conditions on these platforms, the report concludes.
For Sáenz, clients also have a responsibility, by prioritizing the services of those platforms that guarantee better working conditions.