EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Crowd employment

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Crowd employment is a new form of employment, defined in a 2015 Eurofound report on New forms of Employment as employment that ‘uses an online platform to enable organisations or individuals to access an indefinite and unknown group of other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or products in exchange for payment’. Crowd employment is also known as crowd sourcing or crowd work, and aims to organise the outsourcing of tasks to a large pool of online workers rather than to a single employee. Technology is essential in this new employment form, as the matching of client and worker, as well as task execution and submission, is mostly carried out online.

This form of employment is based on individual tasks or projects, rather than on a continuous relationship. For example, a larger task is divided into smaller subtasks that are relatively simple or standardised, can be done independently of the other tasks and have a specific output. Crowd employment can also be used for specific projects or operational segments of projects, and crowd workers can also be employed for the following types of work:

  • macro tasks which are less automated and require more discretion on the part of the worker;
  • simple projects which require considerable investment of time and skills by the worker;
  • (more rarely) complex projects.

Crowd employment is not suitable for all types of tasks or jobs, but it is highly likely that it can be used to perform some part of almost any job.

Examples of tasks often commissioned through crowd employment are:

  • web content and software development;
  • database building and cleaning;
  • classifying web pages;
  • transcribing scanned documents and audio clips;
  • classifying and tagging images;
  • reviewing documents;
  • checking websites for specific content;
  • validating search results;
  • designing logos and drafting slogans for the advertising industry.

Eurofound has published case studies of crowd employment as part of its 2015 research.

See also: Adaptability; Casual worker; Fragmentation of the labour force; New forms of work; Quality of work; Work-life balance.


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