A Rights-Based Approach to Governing Online Freelance Labour: Towards Decent Work in Digital Labour Platforms

Organisation: NTS, RSIS

Authors: Julius Cesar Imperial Trajano
Research Themes:
Health security
Irregular migration and the movements of people
Type: NTS Insight
4 August 2021


The emergence of cross-border, web-based digital labour platforms has been among the major transformations in the world of work over the past decade. Through these platforms, tasks are performed online and remotely by freelance workers. Digital labour platforms facilitate the real-time hiring of freelance workers for a plethora of tasks, such as IT programming, language teaching, virtual assistance, marketing, graphic designing, project management, and even research and development. The global trend is that jobs are outsourced on these platforms by businesses located in the global North and performed by freelance workers residing in the global South. This NTS Insight offers a preliminary study on the emergence of web-based, cross-border digital labour and its impact on labour rights and social protection, with a special focus on online freelance workers from Southeast Asia. It reviews the efforts of ASEAN and national governments in the region to promote social protection of these workers and address challenges to rights-based governance for digital labour platforms. This Insight offers possible areas for action by Southeast Asian countries to promote rights and social protection for their workers who are engaged in web-based digital freelance labour.