Emotional Abuse on Olms: Evidence from Indian Freelancers

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Ernesto NORONHA, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Premilla DCRUZ, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, India
OLMs offer new means of livelihood (Chan & Wang, 2014), creating earning opportunities for increasing numbers of workers across the world (Lehdonvirta & Ernkvist 2011). India is ranked second after the United States of America/US among freelancer nations (Elance, 2013), with Indian freelancers topping the list in terms of volume of work completed (Menon, 2015). Our study shows that Indian freelancers on Upwork report various forms of emotional abuse including aversive racism on OLMs. Mistreatment from fellow freelancers occurs on project teams, during the bidding process or via general interaction fora, being attributed to insecurity linked to the competitiveness of surviving and excelling and to racial bias. Mistreatment from clients which stems from concerns/miscommunication over task completion, issues about freelancer integrity and racial bias could also be linked to a sense of superiority derived from their pseudo-employer status which brings in the element of hierarchy. While Upwork offers platform-based redress mechanisms to tackle bullying in cases where proof from the site is available, instances where the low media richness associated with the abusive communication on the site constrained availing of this option, were reported. The unregulated context of OLMs whereby they operate beyond any form of democratic oversight by way of legislation or collectivization (Bergvall-Kåreborn & Howcroft, 2014) deprives bullied freelancers of the opportunity to seek extra-platform interventions. Moreover, freelancers’ personal initiatives (eg, directly talking to the perpertrator) to deal with the abusive situation were reined in by the critical role of reputation and relationality which are the cornerstones on which OLMs function (Kneese et al, 2014). Undoubtedly, OLMs warrant regulation and, to this end, calls for an internationally co-ordinated approach through ILO’s C177 convention on home-based work are often raised (Risak & Warter, 2015).