Digital workers by design? An example from the on-demand economy

Recent organisational and technological changes à la Uber have generated a new labour-market fringe: a digital class of workers and contractors. In this paper we study the case of CoContest, a crowdsourcing platform for interior design. Our objective is to investigate the profitability of this type of work, from a cross-country perspective, and why professionals choose to supply work on such a platform. Given the low returns, one might expect to see a pattern of northern employer/southern contractor. Yet our analysis reveals a more nuanced pattern, in which designers supply their work even if they live in Italy, which is a high-income country. It can make sense for these designers to work on CoContest if they are new to the labour market and face high entry barriers, but crowdsourcing does not offer them profitable, full-time employment. The case of Serbia, however, which was the second-largest supplier of designers in our sample, is different. As a result of differences in purchasing power, we found that experienced Serbian designers can expect to earn a living from crowdsourced contracts if the market grows.

Maselli, I. and Fabo, B. (2016), 'Digital workers by design? An example from the on-demand economy', CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies).


  • CoContest
  • professional services
  • Online contestant specialist work
  • Italy, Other
  • 2015
  • Research publication, Case study-worker
  • income, worker demographics, motivation
  • English
  • CEPS (Centre for European Policy Studies) (Research institute)
  • Qualitative research
  • Open access
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