Technology is revolutionizing the nature of the firm and the nature of work. In particular, the online space has opened up new opportunities for work, as it provides a new arena for buyers and sellers of goods and services to meet, even those who are far apart geographically. As more people get connected to the Internet, the online workplace is likely to grow even more. The aim of this body of work is to understand how this change is happening with a focus on how it affects people in the Global South. We focus in particular on understanding how marginalized groups (e.g. women, underemployed youth, etc.) are impacted, and designing policy solutions that are inclusive. More recently, we’ve been asking if and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world of work. Our work currently focuses on the following areas:
This working paper explores the effect of gender on the likelihood of internet access and the likelihood of possessing digital skills capabilities among Indians and Sri Lankans, based on nationally representative survey data from 2021.
The technological advancements of the recent decades, including the expansion of the gig economy have given rise to increasing numbers of opportunities for flexible work for both men and women across the globe. Opportunities range from ridesharing to online freelancing to running home-based businesses with the help of social media and logistics platforms. The growth in opportunities for digital work have expanded considerably after the advent of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Flexible work arrangements – such as those offered by the gig economy—have long been argued as an enabler of women’s increased and sustained participation in the labour market. This is particularly pertinent for countries like Sri Lanka, which have tussled with low female labour force participation (LFP) rates over the years. Many have argued that these opportunities are especially advantageous for women, enabling flexibility in terms of time, location, and the conditions of work, allowing for greater LFP and wide opportunities for socio-economic empowerment. This paper seeks to explore the impact that such opportunities are having on women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.
We know from our previous qualitative work that women see online work and the flexibility it entails as a way to earn their own income while balancing childcare and other domestic responsibilities. However, many barriers and challenges remain to women’s participation in the online workplace, including gender gaps in internet connectivity and digital skills, as well as constraining social norms. To better understand women’s engagement with the ecosystem of digitally enabled work, between 2020 and 2023 we conducted further qualitative research in collaboration with the Centre for Policy Research, India, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and World Resources Institute, India, and. The research aimed to assess the ecosystem within which women are engaging with digital work in India and Sri Lanka and the kind of impact that online platforms can create for women’s economic empowerment in order to inform updated labour market regulation and business practices. The final project report can be found below. Suggested citation: Centre for Policy Research, LIRNEasia & Indian Institute for Human Settlements. (2022). Ecosystems of Engagement: Digital Platforms and Women’s Work in Sri Lanka and India. https://lirneasia.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Ecosystems-of-engagement-Digital-platforms-and-womens-work-in-Sri-Lanka-and-India.pdf
Report by Vignesh Ilavarasan on the estimation of the potential for automation in the Indian economy, December 2019.
Ramathi Bandaranayake presented the following paper at the 3rd International Conference on Gender Research, held July 16 – 17 2020. The conference took place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper discusses the findings of our qualitative research related to female online freelancers in India and Sri Lanka. Bandaranayake, R., Iqbal, T., Galpaya, H., Senanayake, L., & Perampalam, S. (2020). ‘Now we are Independent’: Female Online Freelancers in India and Sri Lanka. In K. Jones, C. Collins, M. Davies, M. Della Giust, & G. James. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Gender Research (pp. 40-47). Reading, UK: University of Reading. DOI: 10.34190/IGR.20.121
Helani Galpaya 24 Sep 2019 | CEPA Open Forum | Colombo, Sri Lanka