On-location platform-determined routine work

06 Септември 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. Eurofound identified 10 different types of platform work prevalent in Europe as of 2017. Three of the 10 types were covered in an in-depth study of working and employment conditions.

On-location platform-determined routine work covers low-skilled work that is delivered in person and assigned to the worker by the platform. The platform often takes the role of an employer (at least partially) without, in most cases, providing workers with an employment contract. This type of platform work is currently fairly widespread in Europe as regards both workers and platforms. Well-known examples include food delivery services such as Deliveroo, Foodora and Glovo and person transportation services such as Uber and MyTaxi.

Characteristics

Overview of the characteristics that constitute on-location platform-determined work

Source: Eurofound 2018

Format of service provision

Format of service provision refers to whether the work is performed online or offline (on-location). As the label suggests, on-location platform-determined work denotes local services that are organised through the online platform, but delivered in specific locations. For example, when a client orders a meal through an online platform, the bike courier delivers it in person.

Form of matching

The process of allowing clients and workers to find each other is the main issue for platforms. Platforms are highly invested in optimising the matching process, as the more smoothly clients are matched to workers, the more reason they will have to stay exclusively on one platform, instead of using a different platform or exiting the market. In on-location platform-determined work, matching is done through allocation, or in other words, the platform – often through an algorithm - ‘offers’ a task to a selected worker. For example, Uber has people looking for a ride, and people looking to offer rides. The system aggregates information and allocates a request to a given driver, who may refuse or accept.

Selector

Selection can be made by the client, worker, or the platform. In platform-determined work, the platform (algorithmically) allocates a given task to a given worker. Usually, both client and worker have an opportunity to refuse the selection offered to them.

Scale of tasks

Platform work can involve tasks on a wide ranging scale of duration and complexity. There may be large, long-term projects, as well as micro-tasks. On-location platform-determined work can be placed somewhere in the middle range as the tasks are usually non-innovative and rarely last for more than a few minutes or hours.

Skills level

A given task may require low, medium, or high skills. This refers to the traded tasks and not necessarily to the skills that the workers possess, since it is not uncommon that highly educated individuals carry out simple tasks through platforms. Among low skill activities are manual tasks and tasks that may be performed by anyone without requiring specific know-how or prior instruction or may involve short, repetitive routine tasks. Most on-location platform-determined work falls in this category.

Selected working conditions in on-location platform-determined routine work

Overview of selected characteristics of working conditions

 

On-location platform-determined work

Example

Deliveroo, Uber

Autonomy and control

Earnings

Work intensity and working time quality

Physical environment

Social environment

Career development and prospects

In the context of platform work, autonomy involves the freedom of workers to choose which tasks they do, when they work, and how to organise and perform their work. People doing on-location platform-determined work generally have limited control over their working time and work organisation. Moreover, the platform monitors their performance. Theoretically, workers are free to reject assigned tasks, but experience shows that their access to further tasks might be limited by the platform if workers decline proposed assignments too often.

Furthermore, algorithmically assigned tasks can impact platform workers’ work-life balance. Notably, workers whose main income derives from platform-determined work might be faced with long and unsocial working hours. Additionally, high work intensity and limited breaks can be triggered by pay-by-task schemes.

In terms of social interaction and environment, on-location platform determined workers are, more than other types of platform workers, visible to each other while they are working and there exist now examples of ‘community building’ among platform workers in Europe. On-location platform-determined workers may form strong relationships with each other, offering each other assistance, advice, support and even come together to make common cause, for example in protesting or negotiating their working conditions with the platform.

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