Business

Egypt gig economy workers face rough ride amid rising pressures


CAIRO: Young males on bikes and scooters zip by Cairo, Egypt’s sprawling megalopolis, dodging vehicles to ship greater than one million orders every day, with little bodily or authorized safety. Egypt’s digital gig financial system is rising, as financial pressures push extra of its key demographic-educated, city youth-into the work-on-demand mannequin. Engineer Mohamed Sherif, 37, joined on-line meals ordering firm Talabat as a bicycle courier in Alexandria three months in the past as a result of he couldn’t discover a job.

“They bleed you dry left and right, but there’s nothing else to do,” he instructed AFP. In early April, Talabat couriers known as a two-day strike to demand larger wages, with solely a fraction of the 12,000 workforce becoming a member of. The work stoppage mirrored, nonetheless, the state of Egypt’s sizeable, app-based gig financial system.

Inflation has climbed to a three-year excessive of 12.1 % whereas the Egyptian pound plunged to 18 % of its worth. The mounting financial hardships come as international commodity costs have soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A courier who declined to be named mentioned commissions have been stagnant since 2020 at 9-18 Egyptian kilos (50 cents and $1). “You can work a nine or 10-hour shift, and just not get enough orders,” Sherif instructed AFP.

After paying for gasoline, oil and different bills, “you could end up only making 30 or 40 pounds that day”. In Egypt, the place 60 % of the 103-million-strong inhabitants are below 30 and 14.5 % of college graduates are unemployed, digital labor platforms have attracted 100,000-200,000 employees. Uber alone employed 90,000 drivers in 2019, all with out contracts, insurance coverage or social safety.

‘Taking advantage of vulnerability’

Fairwork, a undertaking by the University of Oxford, labored with the American University in Cairo to price the working situations of seven of Egypt’s largest digital labor platforms. Uber, Talabat and grocery app Mongez scored one out of 10, whereas ridesharing startup Swvl-which made headlines for its $1.5 billion Nasdaq debut earlier this year-scored simply three out of 10.

Omar Ramadan, whose residence upkeep and cleansing companies startup FilKhedma rated highest at 5 out of 10, mentioned working situations are seldom mentioned within the tech ecosystem. “It’s very rare to talk about how much we’re paying people, if this is fair or not, if we’re taking advantage of people’s vulnerability.”

A 3rd of Egyptians dwell in poverty, and practically the identical quantity are weak to falling into poverty, the World Bank says. The common household’s month-to-month earnings is 6,000 EGP ($325). Following the strike this month, Talabat mentioned in a press release that couriers earned round  4,000-6,000 EGP per thirty days, and as much as 10,000 EGP “if they work eight hours or more”.

But couriers say this excludes the price of petrol-which has gone up by three % in current days-and paying for and servicing the scooter or bicycle they use. Couriers utilizing bikes earn as much as twice as a lot as these making their deliveries by bicycles or on foot, mentioned Sherif.

A authorized gray space

Couriers additionally put their lives in danger as they navigate the chaotic streets of Cairo, the place visitors guidelines are greater than usually disrespected and accidents occur nearly every day. Talabat Egypt’s public affairs head Asmaa Khalil denied claims made by some couriers that they haven’t any enough insurance coverage to guard them. According to her, Talabat pays into accident and life insurance coverage, however the schemes are dealt with by exterior contractors that recruit and handle their couriers.

Bicycle courier Sherif criticized this methodology, calling it a approach by employers “to get rid of the dirty work”. Khalil mentioned that, legally, Talabat has “no obligations” in direction of its couriers and gives insurance coverage and different advantages solely “out of goodwill”. For Wael Tawfik of the Legal Collective to Promote Labor Awareness, the perfect recourse for employees is to arrange a commerce union. But Sherif mentioned it might be a troublesome job for couriers to arrange a union as a result of “unlike factory workers who all work in the same place, couriers only meet each other by coincidence”.

Only 13.6 million individuals obtain state-sponsored social safety advantages in Egypt, the place 63 % of the workforce are employed within the casual financial system, based on the International Labor Organization. “Employment law, tax law, social security, it’s all unclear how the gig economy is supposed to behave,” Ramadan mentioned. “Everyone in the gig economy is in a grey area,” he added. – AFP

 



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