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Crowdsourcing refers to the use of the Internet to enlist the services of a large number of people to undertake a particular task. This is a new concept that is slowly replacing the traditional notion of a work place and an office. Crowdsourcing has made it possible for freelance work to emerge, and an individual can complete different tasks from any place. What is required is a computer and the Internet connection. This paper is a proposal for a global policy that can help improve the work conditions and salaries paid to people working for crowdsourcing companies. The major argument of this paper is that crowdsourcing workers are independent contractors and not employees; hence, they do not benefit from the minimum wage policies enacted by various states. The crowdsourcing companies exploit their skills and pay them very little amount of money. Therefore, there is a need for a policy that will guarantee a good wage for the work that these freelancers do.
Every employee wishes to have good wages as this would guarantee their financial security and give them the ability to meet their basic needs. This is the major reason the government of United States has suggested minimum wages that companies must pay their employees. The minimum wage in the United States is $7.25. Crowdsourcing companies are known to pay as little as $1.58 per hour for a task that a freelancer working for this company performs (Trusts, 2013). For example, such a company as Amazon Mechanical Turks (AMT) has a biased policy towards freelancers and pays approximately $2.30 per hour to its US workers, and people from other countries, such as India, are paid $ 1.68 per hour. These figures are way below the minimum wages suggested by the government, and this is why crowdsourcing firms are strongly criticized and accused of engaging in unethical behaviors. Whether an employee of a crowdsourcing company is paid or not for a particular task depends on a certain requester. The requester has the authority of declining or approving the work of a contributor, and this affects the contributor’s pay. Chances are high that a requester may decline the work of a contributor despite them following all the instructions. This is a violation of the rights of a contributor. Declining and approving the work of a contributor has been made possible because workers do not sign any work or non-disclosure agreements. These are the requesters who have the right to judge the quality of the work done by a contributor. These factors make the freelancers vulnerable to exploitation by crowdsourcing firms and requesters.
Capitalism contributes to the post-Fordist nature of the global economic system (Bogost, 2013). It involves making profit by minimizing costs, and this includes the amount of money companies pay their employees. Therefore, crowdsourcing companies have an intention of making money at the expense of the employees as well. They offer lower salary rates to contributors while keeping large commissions. Such kind of a behavior is an unethical business practice. Requesters might also engage in an unethical practice when they reject work done by contributors even if the latter follow their instructions. Therefore, people working for crowdsourcing companies need protection.
There is a number of ways that the freelancers use to protect themselves from exploitation. One includes the formation of Turkopticon, which is a technological platform that identifies exploitative requesters in crowdsourcing sites, such as Mechanical Turk. It allows contributors to review requesters, identifying any unfair work that was of high quality that requesters refused to pay (Bogost, 2013). Through this method, contributors are able to identify and decline working for requesters who have a large number of negative reviews. However, this method does not solve the problem of wages that those working for crowdsourcing firms are experiencing.
There is a need to set a universal policy that will identify freelancers as actual employees, which, in turn, will provide them with protection under minimum wages law. Such kind of a policy should identify the living conditions of a country that a worker lives in, and basing on this living conditions, the policy should establish a minimum wage that crowdsourcing companies and requesters should compensate these workers. Therefore, the best policy which will regulate and protect the interests of these workers is a policy that establishes minimum wages as per the country of a worker. If a worker is from India, for example, the crowdsourcing firm must have a different minimum wage bill based on the living standards and economic conditions of the country. The same applies to a worker who is in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, etc.
Capitalism is the most dominant economic system in the United States. Capitalism is post-Fordist because of the liberalization policies of the United States. Most crowdsourcing companies have headquarters in the United States, and their intention is to make profits. These companies try to with follow policies that aim to reduce the costs of their operations. Paying their workers very low wages is one of the methods they use to achieve their objectives (Trusts, 2013). Minimum wages is one of the best methods of protecting these employees from exploitation. An alternative to a minimum wage policy is the formation of labor unions. However, this alternative is not viable and is difficult to achieve since it is a complicated task to create trade unions and labor rights groups amongst the virtual workforce. This is because they are distributed all over the world and most of them do not collaborate while performing their tasks.
The role and function of trade unions is assumed by such companies as Turkopticon since they have special software that prevents contributors from being exploited by requesters. Identification of requesters who abuse the services of contributors will help other contributors to avoid working for such people in future (Mims, 2010). However, these companies do not lobby for an increase in wages and salaries that contributors earn. A minimum wage policy will help solve this problem, but the most difficult part is the implementation of this policy.
There is a need of forming an International Virtual Work Force Organization (IVWFO) that will take the responsibility of implementing this policy. The organization should be recognized by all countries in the world. The IVWFO should have the capability of identifying all the crowdsourcing organizations in the world. This is for the purpose of ascertaining their headquarters and the kind of workers they employ. It should thereafter provide a list of minimum wages that these organizations should pay their employees. The challenge to this policy is that crowdsourcing organizations may seek to employ people coming from countries that have the lowest minimum wage.
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It is important to note that employees working for crowdsourcing organizations are highly qualified. In fact, researches indicate that most of freelancers have a bachelor’s degree and they are highly skillful in the tasks they choose to perform. Therefore, there is a guarantee that these employees will provide high quality work despite the low minimum wage they get. Such countries as India have poor living standards when compared to such countries as the United States. Therefore, the wages paid to these contributors by such crowdsourcing firm as Mechanical Turks should be different. However, the amount of money Mechanical Turks pays freelancers even in the developed countries is very small. The wages should be increased. For example, a worker in the United States should earn $ 7.5 per hour, which is the minimum wage an employee should be able to earn. For Indians, the minimum wage should be $ 2.35, which is the minimum wage established by the Indian government. This policy will most definitely make it expensive to hire American contributors. However, it is worth it because it will improve the living conditions and life of people working for crowdsourcing firms.
In conclusion, crowdsourcing is a new and widely spreading trend in the global work environment. Business organizations are using the services of crowdsourcing companies because they can easily find cheap labor. As a system that shares the main concepts of post-Fordism, capitalism has contributed to formation of these companies to initiate policies that would enable them to make high profits. Cheap labor is one of such policies. To protect workers, there is a need for forming an international organization whose main task is to adopt policies aimed at protecting the interests of a virtual workforce. The suggested institution is the International Virtual Work Force Organization. This should be a body recognized by the international community, and it should have the mandate to establish a minimum wage that employees from different countries get.