Typology

06 Septembre 2018

Definition of platform work

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. The main characteristics of platform work are the following:

  • Paid work is organised through an online platform.
  • Three parties are involved: the online platform, the client and the worker.
  • The aim is to carry out specific tasks or solve specific problems.
  • The work is contracted out.
  • Jobs are broken down into tasks.
  • Services are provided on demand.

Platform work versus platform economy

As the main traded good is labour, rather than materials or capital, sales platforms (such as eBay) or platforms providing access to accommodation (such as Airbnb) or financial services fall outside this definition. Furthermore, non-commercial transactions like volunteering, networking, social media (such as LinkedIn) or any other form of unpaid transaction (such as Couchsurfing, which matches people looking for accommodation with people offering it free of charge) are not considered platform work. Accordingly, platform work refers to online platforms matching the supply of and demand for paid labour.

Platform economy sectors

Within the platform economy, Eurofound identifies several industrial sectors within which most platform-based activities take place. The overview below denotes the different sectors within the platform economy and notes for each sector whether it qualifies as platform work, and also offers relevant examples.

Eurofound distinguishes the following platform economy sectors:

Platform economy sector

Platform work

Example of tasks

Platform example

accommodation

No

renting a holiday home

Airbnb and HomeStay

financial services

No

crowdfunding

Kickstarter and Seedr

household tasks

Yes

cleaning

Hilfr and Helpling

non-commercial services

No

volunteering, social media

Linkedin and Couchsurfing

professional services

Yes

software development or graphic design

Upwork and 99 Designs

transport

Yes

person transport and food delivery

Glovo and Deliveroo

Platform work typology

Within the three platform economy sectors in which platform work takes place, Eurofound has identified 10 types which already have reached some ‘critical mass’ in Europe as regards the number of platforms and workers.

The main differences between these types are in:

  • the scale of tasks (ranging from micro-tasks to larger projects);
  • the format of service provision (whether the tasks are delivered on-location or online);
  • the level of skills required for those tasks (routine indicates that little complex skill or background knowledge is required to perform a task, whereas specialist work requires higher skills and presumably experience or training);
  • the party which determines the work allocation (selector). The selector may be the client, worker or platform, and;
  • the matching process (offer or a contest structure, which is a more broad-based open call).

The 10 types are:

Type

Characteristics

 

Format of service provision

Scale of tasks

Selector

Form of matching

Platform examples

On-location client-determined routine work

On-location

Larger

Client

Offer

Go More (also potentially Airbnb)

On-location platform-determined routine work

On-location

Larger

Platform

Offer

Uber and Deliveroo

On-location client-determined moderately skilled work

On-location

Larger

Client

Offer

Oferia

On-location worker-initiated moderately skilled work

On-location

Larger

Worker

Offer

Listminut

Online moderately skilled click work

Online

Micro

Platform

Offer

Crowd-Flower

On-location client-determined expert

On-location

Larger

Client

Offer

appJobber

On-location platform-determined expert

On-location

Larger

Platform

Offer

Be My Eyes

Online platform-determined higher-skilled work

Online

Larger

Platform

Offer

Clickworker

Online client-determined specialist work

Online

Larger

Client

Offer

Freelancer

Online contestant specialist work

Online

Larger

Client

Contest

99Designs

Source: Eurofound 2018

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