Research on on-demand technology and domestic work

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Last week i spoke at the event marking the launch of new ODI research on mobile technology and domestic work, this critical discussion explores the impacts of technology on women’s working lives.

EDEL Technology itself has created Mablode(-on demand platform to enable people set up thier own ondemand services), so this topic is important to us.




Please see below a review of the ODI Research Paper 


  • Women make up 80% of the 67 million domestic workers globally. The on-demand economy for domestic work is growing rapidly in developing countries. The potential benefits and risks attached to this burgeoning area of domestic work may affect women disproportionately.
  • On-demand platforms offer some benefits to domestic workers, such as choice over working times, tracking of hours worked and wages earnt, and potentially better remuneration compared with other forms of domestic work.
  • Although some benefits can be identified, overall the on-demand economy threatens domestic workers’ access to decent work. The review identifies low and insecure incomes, discrimination, further entrenchment of unequal power relations within the traditional domestic work sector, and the erosion of established labour and social protections as key challenges.
  • On-demand companies have adapted to developing country contexts, notably by taking steps to engage workers by overcoming digital and financial divides.
  • The infancy of the on-demand domestic work economy in developing countries means it is not too late to raise standards. This will involve proactive efforts by companies to ‘design-in’ good practice, as well as by government to ensure an integrated future policy, legal, practice and research agenda.


The operating model of gig-economy platforms is divided into two part.

1)   Crowdwork

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2)   On-demand 


Crowdwork refers to the service purchasers advertise specific tasks on the platform, which enables the matching of the purchaser with suitably skilled crowdworkers across the world, who can complete the task for payment. An example of crowdwork platform is Amazon Mechanical Turk.


The on-demand is organized via online platforms mobile applications which often set the terms of service, including fees, minimum service quality standards, and have some role in workforce selection and management. 


On-demand platforms are not homogeneous. An example of on-demand economy is Uber, which links purchasers requiring taxi-style private hire transport to a pool of available drivers via its platform. 

On-demand economy relies on Internet connectivity to organize service purchasing.


Due to the service of On-demand economy, it has help the growth of many developing countries especially in some part of Africa.

1)  Also mobile phone adoption has increased with an estimated 65% of the world population.


2) Made the use of internet increased by 898 million users. 


3) Gender inequalities in access to and use of technologies are likely to shape women’s ability to access work


4) Due to its concerned with financial divides, payments for on-demand economy services are generally made and received through formal bank accounts, therefore it has increased the rate at which people to own financial account especially men.



Domestic workers are often unprotected by labour legislation, for example laws on minimum wages or working time. This is so because;

1) Due to low remuneration and poor working conditions on demand domestic work.

2) It is undocumented and informal.

3) Which takes place in private households.

4) Domestic work is often undervalued in monetary terms.

5) Domestic work is often not considered ‘real’ or regular work


Due to these unfair conditions on domestic work the ILO Domestic Workers Convention (No. 189) and an accompanying Recommendation (No. 201) were adopted in 2011 to confers a range of rights to domestic workers, including rest hours, minimum wages, minimum working ages, protection against violence, and the right to a clear communication of labour terms and conditions, including for migrant workers.



The emergence of on-demand domestic work platforms

There are three key groups involved in the on-demand ‘triangle’, individually and in relation to each other:

  • On-demand domestic work platforms
  • Those purchasing domestic work services (demand side)
  • Domestic workers offering services via on-demand platforms (supply side).



Because the reality of the working conditions correspond to those which should legally see domestic workers as classified workers, till date many domestic work are still seen as informal work. The engagement of domestic workers as independent contractors could undo progress in the formalization of domestic work by diminishing legal rights and protections where they currently exist.


On-demand service purchasers

It is shown that on-demand platforms provide advantages to purchasers through convenience, reliability, cost and opportunity to manage work-life balance. However, existing inequalities and unequal power relations between purchasers and domestic workers are left untouched, and in some cases entrenched, by on-demand platforms.

Who are the domestic workers and service purchases?

It is notable, however, that some platforms clearly identify women as domestic workers.

Also in line with this, the purchaser is based on particular platform which included;

1) Families with children

2) Young couples and

3) Young men and women living in sole-occupancy or groups.

Not surprisingly, purchasers interviewed in South Africa reported engaging domestic workers to enable them to better manage their work-life balance through alleviation of their own domestic work burden.


Motivations for using on-demand platforms

These includes: Work life balance, convenience, reliability and cost

1) Work life balance: While low service costs are a clear advantage for purchasers, this represents a significant challenge to the workers’ level of income gain from platforms. Keeping commission rates at a level sufficient to ensure company growth while simultaneously encouraging competitive service prices for purchasers and sufficient wages for workers is a considerable challenge to on-demand companies

2) Convenience:  There is perceive convenience for using on-demand platforms. On-demand platforms facilitate the process, allowing purchasers to select a provider and purchase services on time.

3) Reliability: The reliability offered by on-demand platforms was another attraction cited across contexts, and particularly in comparison to the traditional sector, as platforms could send another provider if the arranged worker was not able to go to the purchaser’s home to fulfill the task purchased.

4) Cost: In addition, as with elsewhere in the on-demand economy, the perceived low cost of services procured was an attraction. As one key informant noted: ‘the biggest marketing point [platforms] have is that they’re cheap and at your doorstep’ (India informant).

Suspicion, trust and choosing a domestic worker

The location in which domestic services take place are in private homes, which means that purchasers often require substantial reassurance on the worker entering their home.


Service quality:  Services across on-demand domestic work platforms are that, services are advertised as high quality and delivered by expert professionals companies who provide quality service assurances through various means, including overseeing the listing of only skilled and/or experienced workers. For example, some require previous employment references and passing a domestic work knowledge exam.

NB: On-demand work is not automatically empowering and can shift risk onto domestic workers themselves.