The second Sunday of Advent is Human Rights Sunday in Korea and the week following is devoted to becoming acquainted with the Social Gospel. An article on platform workers was featured in the present issue of the Catholic Times, along with an editorial. Platform workers are individuals who use an app or a website to connect with customers, to provide a service in return for money.
In particular, it should be noted that amidst the social upheaval driven by the corona-virus infection-19, human rights are being taken away in a new field that has not been seen before. One of them is the case of people engaged in labor through these "digital platforms".
This is a blind spot for human rights in our day. Respecting human beings and promoting human rights are principles the gospel requires of believers. The value of human rights in many fields has increased as our social democracy has been restored and developed. However, we must never forget that there are still people who are suffering from economic logic and are deprived of their human rights.
Delivering food, booking accommodation for travel, and using smartphone apps for taxis have become routine. It is an era where you can receive items from the other side of the world with just one finger at home. In the aftermath of the 4th Industrial Revolution and Corona-virus 19, the demand for "platform workers" has risen sharply.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the platform market has increased by 26% annually and is expected to continue to grow in the future. "You can work as much as you want. You can work when you want to work, and you can rest when you want to rest." These are sweet words promoted by the platform industry. And the fact is the number of workers continues to increase due to the low entry barrier.
According to an analysis of the Korea Employment Information Service last year, there is a maximum of 540,000 Korean platform workers, which are estimated to be 2% of all workers. The World Bank estimates that there will be 120 million global platform workers this year. This year, more and more people are looking for platform labor in the aftermath of Corona 19.
Consequently, because of the pandemic agencies that would deliver all kinds of goods such as food became popular and workers appeared to do this kind of work since many were not able to continue in their previous occupations and were happy to have a job.
The legal or human rights protection for them is poor compared to the demanding workload. This is because the existing Labor Standards Act cannot protect them, and our society is not making efforts to improve human rights of those in a society blind spot.
One of the workers was quoted as saying that it's not as easy as the industry makes it out to be. A delivery driver from Company A, also known as a 'rider' fell from his motorcycle while delivering two cups of coffee. Wearing a helmet did not lead to serious injury, but he reported the situation to headquarters. The answer that came back was what happened to the coffee. The conversation ended, charging the rider for two spilled coffees. It shows the reality of platform workers with responsibility but no authority.
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of human rights in a speech in November, saying, "We must realize that the image of God is engraved in everyone, including the poorest and most despised." Believers must protect human rights and be concerned with the practice of social teaching. Let's not forget that others are suffering in a corner of society, where the corona-virus crisis continues.