Fair work in South Africa's gig economy: A journey of engaged scholarship

Jean Paul Van Belle, Kelle Howson, Mark Graham, Richard Heeks, Louise Bezuidenhout, Pitso Tsibolane, Darcy du Toit, Sandra Fredman, Paul Mungai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Because of its relatively well-developed, highly urbanised economy and high penetration of mobile internet access, the platform economy took off quickly in South Africa, with international players vying for market share and local platforms pursuing more innovative approaches. Digital labour platforms have offered new earning opportunities to many in the country, but concerns have been raised about the quality of jobs created, and whether they meet standards of decent work. South Africa was one of the pilot countries for the Fairwork Project. This article describes the specific conditions which supported the take-off of location-based digital labour platforms in South Africa, explains the methodology used for pursuing the Fairwork research, discusses ratings outcomes based on the empirical research and summarizes the action research component of the project—with particular attention paid to outcomes for workers. We also list some of the lessons that were learnt and give a critical reflection on the project in the hope of assisting other researchers investigating the fourth industrial revolution, the gig economy, and decent work standards, especially in the Global South.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100064
JournalDigital Geography and Society
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Digital platform workers
  • Fair work
  • Gig economy
  • South Africa
  • The fairwork project


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