Platform work: Earnings

06 September 2018

Platform work is a form of employment that uses an online platform to enable organisations or individuals to access other organisations or individuals to solve problems or to provide services in exchange for payment.

Earnings in platform work

The literature suggests that platform work does not often constitute the main income source for platform workers in Europe. Earnings from most types of platform work are variable and for most workers insufficient to make a living. For most workers, it is an additional source of income. However, evidence suggests that a small share of workers is mainly or entirely dependent on the money earned through platform work.

  • Platform economy database: Income

Unpredictability of earnings in platform work

The level of remuneration varies across different types of platform work. Historically, in manufacturing and other sectors, workers earning on a ‘per piece’ basis accrued less per hour than workers who were paid hourly wages, and this is now the case for platform workers. Project-based (larger) tasks and on-location delivered services tend to be compensated at market prices. However, as platform workers are often in arrangements which do not specify a guaranteed volume of work, sometimes equated with zero-hours contracts, overall earnings may be low even when tasks or projects are relatively well paid.

Earnings: predictability and level vary considerably across types of platform work

Eurofound identified 10 different types of platform work prevalent in Europe as of 2017. Five of these types have been analysed in more detail as regards their working conditions.

  • On-location platform-determined routine work covers low-skilled work that is delivered in person and assigned to the worker by the platform. This type of platform work is fairly widespread as regards both workers and platforms.
  • On-location worker-initiated moderately skilled work covers low- to medium-skilled work where tasks are selected and delivered on-location by the worker. The ability to choose their own assignments provides these workers with flexibility, which is considered a major benefit of platform work.
  • Online contestant specialist work is high-skilled online work where the client selects the worker by means of a contest. Workers performing this type of platform work must prove their skills by carrying out part or all of a task before knowing whether they will be selected as winners and paid. This type of platform work is especially prevalent for creative tasks.
  • Online moderately skilled click-work covers work that is delivered online via a platform and is of very low scale (that is, tasks can often be completed within seconds or minutes). This type of platform work is often used by companies to outsource automation tasks that require a human interaction, such as classifying a picture or categorising a product.
  • On-location client-determined moderately skilled work covers low to medium skilled on-location work that is selected by the client by means of an offer. It mostly takes the form of household tasks conducted by professionals to earn additional income or to occupy spare time.

On-location platform-determined work

On-location worker-initiated work

Online contestant work

Online moderately skilled click-work On-location client-determined moderately skilled work




99 Designs

Amazon Mechanical Turk Oferia



Source: Eurofound (2018; 2019)

On-location platform-determined and worker-initiated platform work is paid by the hour, per task or a combination of both. Earnings tend to be low particularly for the platform-determined type, but often comparable to income from similar tasks in the traditional labour market. On-location worker-initiated work provides the most predictable earnings since workers can set their own rates and largely determine their own working time. In contrast, for online contestants earnings depend on the outcome of the contests and are highly uncertain. This unpredictability may be similar to that found in the traditional creative sectors; however, it is further exacerbated in platform work due to more intense international competition. The latter also tends to drive down rates offered for online micro tasks, which are already low due to the small scale and low skills level required for completing the tasks.

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