Platform work: Prospects and career development

06 Septembre 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.

Prospects refer to the opportunities available to platform workers to make a career from their work or to use it as a stepping stone to a different career and generally to achieve job security.

Prospects and career development for platform workers

As platform work has existed for only little over a decade, not much is known of how this employment form impacts workers’ learning, knowledge, skills development and, eventually, their employability and career prospects. There are indications that some platform workers use platform work as a means to flexibly generate additional income, but also to bridge periods of unemployment or underemployment.

It is less clear whether platform workers then transition into other employment. Theoretically, platform work could function as a bridge into secure work, for example by equipping individuals with experience and skills that are otherwise difficult to obtain or by allowing entrance into areas that traditionally have high barriers. However, it appears that platform work only occasionally functions as a springboard into a secure, stable career. This would be in line with general findings on temporary and non-standard work which suggest that these forms of work may trap workers into a cycle of precarious work and reduce workers’ social mobility.

Limited prospects in on-location platform determined work, but opportunities to improve employability in other types of platform work

Eurofound identified 10 different types of platform work prevalent in Europe as of 2017. These three 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.

Comparative overview of selected characteristics of working conditions by type of platform work

 

On-location platform-determined work

On-location worker-initiated work

Online contestant work

Example

Deliveroo

ListMinut

99 Designs

Prospects and career development

Although there are limited opportunities for career advancement within platform work, there is also limited interest of workers to progress within this line of work. On-location platform-determined workers often perceive their work as a temporary situation, giving them access to some work and (additional) income during a specific phase in their (working) life. In contrast, worker-initiated and particularly online contestant workers may use the experience they gain through platform work to build their business contacts or their portfolio to start or enhance a self-employed or freelance activity.

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