The new digital informality is growing: Cepal

Note published on October 31 in El Universal, Cartera [Portfolio] Section by Ivette Saldaña

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Not having social benefits, the jobs generated through digital platforms for delivery or transportation services, among others, have created a new informality, alerted the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

However, for business organizations, the problem in Mexico is due to the fact that the labor law lagged behind in regard to these novel forms of work.

In the ‘Toward the transformation of the development model in Latin America and the Caribbean: production, inclusion and sustainability’ study, published a few days ago, the ECLAC said that while digital platforms create new job opportunities both at the local level and linked to global digital markets, in many cases they fall outside the local regulations in force.

“These workers do not enjoy the labor and social rights established by the corresponding legislation”, the organization emphasized in its analysis.

“The growing prevalence of employment through digital platforms has generated significant challenges in the obtainment of decent work, particularly because of its nature, which is often temporary and part-time, which gives rise to problems of lack of job security, a low income and underemployment”, he said.

Given the foregoing, the ECLAC pointed out that it is important to adapt existing policies or design new actions to encourage formalization “with the objective of reducing precariousness and generating conditions for decent work with mechanisms that provide access to social protection.”

Legislation is lagging behind

In the opinion of the president of the Employers’ Confederation of the Mexican Republic (Coparmex), José Medina Mora, technology advances and generates new ways of interrelation between people and companies.

Through digitization, it is possible to interconnect individuals who require a service with those who offer it: “The laws are lagging behind the times, and they have to start adapting to the new reality”, he told EL UNIVERSAL.

Therefore, the correct approach is to evolve toward a universal social security scheme, that is, that it becomes a human right of the person, even if there is no employment relationship.

“That this new form of work has the right to health as a human right and that it can be covered in the payment of the services itself, that it is provided for, that they can register voluntarily and that the service is covered in the payment in order for them to be protected”, he explained.

In this regard, the president of the National Chamber of the Transformation Industry (Canacintra), José Antonio Centeno, stated that the problem is the same one found in other phenomena in which the activities come first and then they start being regulated.

“This type of virtual labor migration has arisen as a result of the pandemic, and it brings a situation that is not provided for in the labor laws”, he said.

Therefore, it must be identified as something that will continue to happen more frequently, and it is important to analyze its impact.

“Of course, if it is a job, it must be subject to hygiene, safety and social security coverage conditions”, said Centeno.

Employment relationship, or not?

A lawyer specializing in Labor Law,  Óscar de la Vega mentioned that it is not necessarily informality, as many platforms in Mexico withhold taxes from those who provide the service.

It must also be taken into consideration that jobs through digital platforms are not exclusively related to drivers or delivery people, he added, there are also people who can provide their services in another country.

In the case of transportation and delivery service platforms, such as Uber, “they generate a certain formalization of the work” as taxes are paid.

He explained that countries like England and Spain lean toward the acknowledgment of an employment relationship.

From the technical point of view, a concept of subordination and the payment of a salary for the provision of services must be present for an employment relationship to be triggered.

The point of reflection is related to the time that they spend working in a platform, because 48 hours a week is not the same as just two hours.