Let us go direct to the point and identify what types of online workers are exploited in the worldwide web. They are Virtual Assistants, Online writers, Data entry specialists, and Transcriptionists.
These are considered non-technical workers so there are a lot of applicants to these jobs coming from different countries worldwide. Remember that the jobs of these workers are also the most in-demand in the internet. But since the number of applicants always outnumbers the jobs available, the trend is to bid lower to get the job.
With a lot of applicants wanting to get the same job, the principals then have the opportunity to exploit the applicants in terms of lower wages and exploit them they do with much gusto. If in the USA, Canada or Australia, an office assistant would have to be paid $12 to $20 per hour, a virtual assistant can do the same job and be paid much less. It is normal for a lot of virtual assistants to receive only $2 to $5 per hour and they do not receive benefits that must be given in the case of office workers. Most companies also require their virtual assistants to work in their time zone which could be a graveyard shift for the virtual assistant.
The same kind of exploitation is happening with Online Writers. When you visit online job platforms like Odesk, Elance, Freelancer, Guru to name a few, most principals offer only $1 to $2 per 500 words article. This is clearly a form of exploitation because no online writer worth his salt deserves to be offered this kind of rock bottom rate. But since there are writers accepting this low pay, it has become a kind of norm for most principals in different online job boards. To add insult to injury, some principals even demand that the article should be spelling error free and must be grammatically correct as if short of saying the article must be Pulitzer quality.
As for Data entry and Transcriptionists, they are even more exploited mostly by foreign principals. These two types of jobs require some degree of technical expertise like typing speed. But the rate given to workers in this line is so low right now that when translated can mean mostly in the vicinity of $1 to $3 per hour. The very low rate is even more made cumbersome with additional demands coming from the principal. Then again, they can still find workers who are willing to accept such low rate that is why they stick to their low rate and actually even try to go even lower to test if they can still hire.
The worldwide web has become one of the prime sources of income for a lot of people. Millions of people now look at internet job boards, and platforms like Odesk, Elance, Freelancer, Guru, and many other sites to look for a job to make money online. It is supposed to be an opportunity to work at home hassle –free and you get to have more time for yourself and/or your family. While this idea is still true to some extent, nowadays, the trend is for principals to get the most out of the online worker in exchange for a fee that would not even be enough to support one’s daily needs.
As it is right now, the internet is becoming the venue where exploitation of workers is becoming the norm. Since the web market is open and not regulated, any supposed principal can post a job and look for an applicant that can come from such countries as India, Pakistan, Philippines, Bangladesh to name a few. There are also those who are looking for contractors coming from USA, Canada, Australia, and even Europe. Since English is the common language in the internet, countries with English as a second language normally get more of the online jobs.
Another form of exploitation prevalent in the worldwide web is the presence of scammers. There are principals who just require the worker to submit work and then they will disappear. This happens normally when you apply for a fixed price job in Odesk or when you apply in job postings from Craiglist. Some scammers can be easily detected such as when a principal is offering a good rate but has no feedback yet from past workers. Sometimes though you cannot really tell and the online worker just has to pray that the principal is not a scammer.
As long as governments do not find a way to regulate online recruitment, exploitation of online workers will continue. While there are also legit principals online who are willing to pay reasonable rates to their online employees, still the growing exploitation of internet workers is rising to alarming levels and something must be done to stop this 21st century type of enslavement. Online workers cannot do much so it is the government that must step in and do something to help exploited online workers.