*Names of turkers, requesters, and countries have been omitted to protect privacy.
I would tell you how many drafts of this article I have written, but the truth is that I have lost count. Why you might be wondering? I have a lot to say on this topic and trying to condense it all for an article makes it feel like I am not doing it justice. A wise friend of mine, an international worker I met through Turkopticon, told me to just be honest. So, here I sit on the evening of my deadline, writing what will be the final draft.
When I began turking in 2015, I joined several groups and forums to begin learning the ropes from veteran workers. I remained quiet, but I enjoyed reading about available work, qualifications, requesters, and more. It was always encouraging to see other turkers share their weekly earnings and knowing I could really turn this into the job I so badly needed at the time if I put the time and effort in.
Occasionally there would be an international worker in one of the groups I was in, or I would see a post about international workers. Back then, I knew very few people who worked on Mturk, and they were all from the United States. It wasn’t until joining Turkopticon that I had a true picture of international workers and, even though I can only tell you my experience, it is my sincere wish that each turker in the United States has a chat with an international worker after reading this.
When I look for work on Mturk, I have a large variety available to me, and I consider myself fortunate for that. I knew that international workers have less work available, but I was surprised to learn from my international friends and coworkers just how much less work really exists for them. During a spirited discussion about a particular requester, I learned that this single requester made up 70% of one turker’s total work. Through forums and other events, I have been told that some workers complete tasks from only the same 3-4 requesters. So, why is this?
It turns out there are multiple reasons for the differences in work availability, and likely other reasons I haven’t been made aware of. First, there are some studies and projects that simply require the responses from workers in the US only, just as there are tasks that seek only information from females, males, college students, etc. Beyond that reason lies confusion with the qualification system. When used properly, a requester should be able to set up a HIT and include English speakers from all over the world. To do so, however, first requires knowledge of the qualification system, which not all requesters have due to the lack of training available. Secondly, using qualifications costs money. If knowledge and/or funds are lacking, it seems the one option in some cases is for the requester to include workers from the United States only in an effort to receive responses from English-speaking turkers. The good news is that this issue is fixable, and hopefully addressing it here is a beginning step in doing so.
Lastly, this also provides a response to the statement I know most of us have seen at least once in forums and groups: “If international workers would quit doing the low-paying HITs, maybe the requester would pay better.” Even if there is truth to this, how do you tell a person trying to make a living or supplement their income that they should stop doing work from the requester that provides them with 70% of their earnings?
That statement reflects an attitude that exists in some corners of the turk world. The international workers I have spoken to are well aware that they, as a whole are blamed for certain issues on the platform. For example, most workers I talk to are aware of the social media groups that are used for buying and selling Mturk accounts. These groups pop up, are reported, and then new groups pop up. And…repeat. This is an issue as old as AMT and has been largely associated with international workers.
That being said, I have yet to meet any turker who has purchased an account. I realize it does happen because those are the accounts that are detected by Amazon and shut down. I never hear about the people selling those accounts, though. If this issue is going to be tied to turkers, it should not be placed on the shoulders of only international turkers. It is not a “country problem” but rather a turker problem. This is also something that is fixable, but it requires all of us in the turker community to report these selling groups and forums in order to have them shut down. It is only fixable if we open our eyes wider to the problem and stop blaming one group of people.
The biggest and most important thing I have learned from international workers is that we all turk for similar reasons; to support our families, to supplement our incomes, to start a vacation fund, or to save up for that special something. We have our own language that few others understand as we talk about turking, HITs, pandas, and more. We all want good work from honest requesters. We all want to be treated with respect by our fellow turkers, requesters, and Amazon. We want the same payment options – bank accounts and not Amazon gift cards.
If you take just one thing from this article, please let it be this: We are far more similar than we are different.
Article by K.