Platform work

1 December 2021

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Platform work uses an online platform to enable organisations or individuals to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services in exchange for payment. Therefore, there are three parties involved, connected thanks to an algorithm. It is workRead more

Platform work uses an online platform to enable organisations or individuals to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services in exchange for payment. Therefore, there are three parties involved, connected thanks to an algorithm. It is work based on the performance of individual tasks or projects rather than a continuous employment relationship. A larger task is usually divided up into smaller subtasks, or ‘micro tasks’, that are independent, homogenous and produce a specific output. These tasks are carried out separately, resulting in a widespread, even global, division of tasks.

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Recent updates

Charting a positive path for platform workers

While 2020 may come to be seen as the year platform work gathered pace and started to go mainstream – thanks in large...

New forms of employment in Europe – How new is new?

Standard employment is not simply being replaced by non-standard work; employment is becoming more diverse, and policy...

New forms of employment: 2020 update

Although standard employment (generally full-time and permanent) remains the dominant employment type across the EU,...

EU context

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Platform work infographic
Infographic

In June 2016, the Commission adopted its European Agenda for the Collaborative Economy, clarifying the concept of platform work and providing guidance on the employment status of platform workers. As part of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Directive 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions also covers platform work. In November 2019, the Council also adopted the Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed, including reference to platform workers. 

The 2019 EU regulations on platform-to-business relations aim to create a fair, transparent and predictable business environment for smaller businesses and traders when using online platforms. 

In January 2020, the Commission outlined its policy priorities for 2019–2024, one of which is to create ‘a Europe fit for the digital age’. In its Communication on building a strong social Europe for just transitions, the Commission highlighted the need for improved working conditions of platform workers. On 10 March 2020, the Commission presented its New industrial strategy for Europe, which plans for an initiative on improving the working conditions of platform workers. This objective is mirrored in the Commission’s subsequent work programmes. 

Under the Action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, adopted on 5 March 2021, the Commission plans to present a legislative proposal on improving the working conditions of platform workers. On 15 June 2021, the Commission launched the second-stage consultation of the social partners on how this could be achieved. 

Eurofound’s work on platform work links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on a Europe fit for the digital age. 

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Research

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Eurofound research on new forms of employment across the EU identified platform work as one of nine employment forms that are gaining increasing importance since 2000.Read more

Eurofound research on new forms of employment across the EU identified platform work as one of nine employment forms that are gaining increasing importance since 2000. As platform work continues to grow and diversify, ongoing research looks at the employment and working conditions of selected types of platform work. 

Eurofound will also put more focus on assessing the effectiveness of policy initiatives to tackle identified challenges related to platform workers’ employment and working conditions. 

Key topics relate to the representation of platform workers, negotiation of working conditions, provision of insurance and social protection or taxation. The Agency will continue to monitor the evolution of the platform economy through its web repository.

Typology of platform work

Eurofound has identified 10 types of platform work that as of 2017 have reached some critical mass in Europe as regards the number of platforms and affiliated active workers. The main differences between these types are in the scale of tasks, the format of service provision (whether the tasks are delivered locally or online), the level of skills required, the process by which client is matched to worker (offer of work versus contest) and the party that determines the work allocation. 

Regularly updated information on the platform economy

An online platform economy repository, compiled by Eurofound, aims to bring together a range of information on this subject. It includes more detail on Eurofound’s typology of platform work, a range of dossiers offering analysis and context on key issues emerging in the platform economy, a database of publications, as well as a range of initiatives aiming to tackle emerging issues. The repository  also provides specific information related to platform work and COVID-19. 

Eurofound has also carried out a mapping of studies measuring the platform economy, which outlines the methods used and their limitations, and discusses the options to address data gaps.

With a forward-looking approach, Eurofound developed scenarios of how platform work in Europe could look by 2030, and the likely implications on the economy, labour market and society. These ‘potential futures’ indicate the opportunities and risks of the various development pathways and also put forward what policy could do to realise desirable and avoid undesirable futures.

 

In the above audiogram, Irene Mandl speaks to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research on labour market change and the future of work in the context of COVID-19.

 

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Key outputs over the years

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Policy pointers

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  • While small in scale, platform work has been dynamically developing in the past 15 years and is expected to continue doing so in the future. Extending the knowledge base and generating reliable estimates on an ongoing basis will help to inform policymaking in this area.
  • There is some heterogeneity within platform work. Different types of platform work result in different effects on employment, working conditions and the labour market.
  • High on the present agenda is the employment status of platform workers and their potential misclassification. Employment status is important as it affects workers’ rights and entitlements.
  • Emerging issues that are specific to platform work relate to, for example, transparency of algorithmic management and control, fairness and portability of ratings, cross-border aspects, competition law and consumer protection.
  • While it is important to discuss the challenges related to platform work, the opportunities inherent in this employment form and business model should also be acknowledged. Examples refer to the potential contribution of platform work to labour market integration, income generation and fostering entrepreneurial spirit, legalising undeclared work or the development of rural areas. However, little is known about whether these examples can be realised, and potential unintended negative side-effects need to be explored.
  • Measurements should aim to give a broad picture of the fast-growing economy revolving around online platforms. These will investigate the different ramifications of platform work touching on a variety of policy areas, including business competition, tax evasion, data protection and consumer protection. 
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Publications & data

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The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic. 

  • Publications (24)
  • Data
  • Ongoing work (2)

Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations. 

Data

Data related to this topic are linked below. 

Ongoing work

Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles. 

 

Other ongoing work