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Frequently asked Questions about the Gig or Platform Economy

What is the aim of a WageIndicator platform or gig section?

There is no global database and regularly updated information regarding the gig economy from  around the world yet. The WageIndicator gig economy section aims to fill this gap. In order to do so, national surveys are used to collect data on gig work reality. Each country will provide a part, finally resulting in a global mosaic. In addition, updated news and reports are shared through all WageIndicator websites. A final objective is also to identify best practices (collective agreements, responsible platforms, additional services for workers, etc.) for gig workers’ well-being. You will find national information here:

And below all questions you may have about the platform or gig economy. (last update 20200618)

  1. What is a digital platform?
  2. What kind of digital platforms are there?
  3. What is a gig worker?
  4. What is the gig economy?
  5. Are gig workers employees, employers, or self employed?
  6. In what type of industries can one find platforms?
  7. What is the aim of the WageIndicator gig economy section?
  8. What is the use of the WageIndicator gig economy database?
  9. Do all digital labour platforms use the same approach to engage with their workforce?
  10. What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the digital labour platforms? How did it impact data collection for the WageIndicator project?
  11. What did labour platforms do to protect workers during COVID-19?
  12. What is the situation of gig workers in India?
  13. What does gig mean?
  14. What makes crowd work different from work-on-demand?
  15. Is there a typical platform economy worker?
  16. What are the good things about the gig economy?
  17. What are the working conditions in the gig economy?
  18. What is an algorithm?
  19. Does gig work pay well?
  20. How is the platform economy regulated?
  21. Italy: Platform Economy Regulations
  22. The Netherlands: Platform Economy Regulations
  23. Pakistan: Platform Economy Regulations
  24. South Africa: Platform Economy Regulations
  25. How big is the gig economy on a global scale?
  26. How many people work in the platform economy?
  27. Is the gig economy fair for workers?
  28. Court cases related to the platform economy
  29. Is there “A” future of work?
  30. What are the main challenges for platform workers?

 

1. What is a digital platform?

Digital platforms are software-based media which mediate and dictate economic relations and shape social action. Some digital platforms mediate labour relationships among workers and companies, others mediate between individuals, i.e., the worker and those (clients) who hire them on a per gig basis.

The over-focus of media, academia, and regulators on rider’s and driver’s cases hides the great variety and complexity of platform workers’ situations from view. 

 

2. What kind of digital platforms are there?

  • There are platforms for all kinds of talent and needs - from microworkers on platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, on-demand workers through platforms like Glovo, UberEats, MyPoppins or Urban Company.
  • There are also platforms focused on blue collar workers like Wonolo or JobToday, that offer a digital alternative to traditional temporary employment agencies. 
  • Others offer digital connections to freelancers and white-collar workers (designers, translators, programmers, project managers, cybersecurity experts, etc.), such as Fiverr, Workana or Malt.
  • One can find highly specialized profiles on platforms such as TopTal, Up Counsel or GLG. In addition there are platforms that employ their workers full-time (ex: HelloAlfred) or full-time and part-time (ex: TechBuddy), others use temp agencies (ex: JustEat in Spain and Denmark but not in other markets where they use a self-employed couriers model) 
  • Others still create cooperative models where workers are the owners of the platforms (ex: La Pájara en Bici).
  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines the growth of platform work as “one of the most important transformations in the world of work over the past decade.” Source.

More information about platforms at Platformed and Platform Design Toolkit websites

 

3. What is a gig worker?

A gig worker sells their skills and time through the platform marketplace. In doing so a gig worker participates in the gig economy.

 

4. What is the gig economy?

There is no single, agreed definition of the gig economy. WageIndicator uses as a working definition: “the exchange of labour for money between individuals or companies via digital platforms that facilitate matching between providers and customers, on a short-term and payment-by-task basis.” Check also the Gig Economy Data Hub definition of Gig Worker.

 

5. Are gig workers employees, employers, or self employed?

In most cases gig workers are considered to be self-employed. This is usually clear for platforms geared towards freelancers and blue collar workers. But it is quite unclear and  controversial in platforms geared towards on-demand and micro-workers. The abundance of court cases on platform workers classification, as well as attempts to develop specific legislation (AB5 in California, France, Italy, etc.) showcase this ambiguity. 

 

6. In what type of industries can one find platforms?

Platforms are becoming a regular intermediary in all kinds of industries. Gig workers are active in all industries—including B2B, retail and education—not just in the traditional freelance strongholds of mobility, delivery, IT, and data processing. [Source]

2

3

Source: https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/ec5bfac6/files/uploaded/AppJobs%20Institute%20Future%20of%20Work%20Report%202020.pdf - page 33

Low-skill, low-wage freelance tasks accounted for only about half of the freelance work sourced through platforms. Much of the remainder comprised higher-skill, higher-paid work, such as software development and design.

4

Check also What kind of work is done through gigs?

 

7. What is the aim of the WageIndicator gig economy section?

There is no global database and regularly updated information regarding the gig economy from  around the world yet. The WageIndicator gig economy section aims to fill this gap.

In order to do so, national surveys are used to collect data on gig work reality. Each country will provide a part, finally resulting in a global mosaic. In addition, updated news and reports are shared through all WageIndicator websites. A final objective is also to identify best practices (collective agreements, responsible platforms, additional services for workers, etc.) for gig workers’ well-being.

 

8. What is the use of the WageIndicator gig economy database?

WageIndicator shares the view stated in the EuroFound report Let’s move beyond platitudes on platform work:

 “...  platform work is ... complex, and probably will get more complex over time. There is no ‘one platform work’. What is positive in one type of platform work can be negative in another type, and we need to be better informed about the different effects on the workers in order to ensure decent working conditions.

Work needs to be done, but we are not starting from scratch: governments, social partners and the platform work community itself are already experimenting with approaches to tackle the emerging issues. However, as these interventions are still in their infancy, we have to monitor them carefully to analyse what works and what does not. We should encourage more information sharing, so that everyone does not have to reinvent the wheel – but that they can rather learn from each other.

Finally, we should raise awareness of the diversity within platform work and the need for more tailor-made solutions, rather than wasting effort in ‘one-size-fits-all solutions’ which in the end do not really fit anyone.”

9. Do all digital labour platforms use the same approach to engage with their workforce?

Certainly not. 

As reported in many studies and the mass media, a large number of platforms consider their workforce to be composed of independent workers. In some cases, such as freelancer platforms (UpWork, Workana, Malt, etc.) that seems a good fit. In other cases, specially around the “on demand” services there is a lot of controversy and trials around workers’ classification as independent workers instead of employees.

A less known reality is that platforms such as Alto (ridesharing services) or Honor (care services) have decided to use a traditional employment model. Whether it be for legal reasons, for service quality control reasons, for social reasons, etc. the fact is that more and more platforms see the potential benefits of having a workforce with a traditional employment relationship. In this direction we also identify the “platform cooperatives” where the workers are members of a cooperative and also co-owners of the code of the platform they use.

There are other scenarios with a triangular relationship between a platform, a worker and a 3rd party entity. For example in Spain the ridesharing services (Uber/Cabify) require a VTC license to operate. These licenses are held neither by the platforms nor by the independent drivers. These licenses are held by VTC operators such as Moove Cars, Vector Ronda y Auro New Transport that accumulate thousands of licenses. These VTC operators are the ones who employ the drivers using a temporary employment contract in most cases. The fleet of cars and drivers are then made available to the platforms. This VTC fleet operator model for ride sharing companies is also working in Germany and is being explored in California. Something similar happens with JustEat. In Spain and Netherlands JustEat riders are employed either directly by the restaurants or by a 3rd party “riders fleet” operator (such as GrupoMox in Spain). This model is going to be extended to other JustEat Takeaway markets. The employment conditions under this model are far from ideal (long hours, low payment, etc.) but at least this scheme provides easier access to employment for the gig workers.

10. What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the digital labour platforms? How did it impact data collection for the WageIndicator project?

WageIndicator Platform Workers: Decent Rights & Pay project has been doing data collection during a period when many countries have been subject to several degrees of lockdown. That has obviously impacted digital platforms and the data collection efforts of the project.

It has been observed that in most countries delivery services (Glovo, UberEats, DoorDash, Zoomato) were classified as essential and kept operating. During strict lockdown periods the volume of orders was drastically reduced but when lockdown was relaxed the activity recovered quite well and even increased because customers had become more used to delivery services and/or do not want to sit in restaurants because of potential risks.

Other proximity services such as care, house cleaning, beauty services, house maintenance, etc.  were basically stopped during lockdown periods. These are platforms such as Cuideo (Care in Spain),  Urban Company (beauty services, India), SweepSouth (cleaning in South Africa). Some startups providing proximity services went bankrupt and discontinued operations. For the ones that survived, when lockdown was relaxed, these services recovered to a normal level yet they had to implement strict anti COVID-19 measures.

Taxi-like services (Ola, Uber, Cabify, Grab, etc.) were badly hit although not stopped completely. For example in Spain's major cities it was reported that service and billing losses exceeded 50%. This percentage has shot up to over 75% in those areas that live (and depend on) on tourism. These services are slowly recovering from the COVID-19 effects but won’t restore previous levels of activities for a long period of time.

This analysis can also be done at country level. Nearly 90 per cent of Indian gig workers have lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by Flourish Ventures. Flourish found that ride-sharing drivers in India were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 90 per cent reported a loss of income, compared to 72 percent of house cleaners.

Appjobs

Source: AppJobs Institute / WEF

The online services such as microwork and freelance work have increased quite dramatically. COVID-19 reports from UpWork or Payooner or public data from Fiverr (traded company) all point in the same direction: strong and increasing demand for freelance services. This trend can also be observed from Oxford Internet Institute papers or AppJobs published reports.

Pioneer Study

Source: Payoneer study

Upwork

Source: UpWork Freelance Forward 2020

A final interesting observation is that a lot of people who lost their traditional employment have seen an opportunity to earn money via digital platforms, so the number of sign-ups of new workers in the platforms has increased across all sectors. The problem is that very often this new offer is not matched by new demand, so it is more difficult than it used to be, to get income on a given digital platform. See “Gig Economy Incomes are Shrinking as Workers Flood Apps” in Time Magazine.

11. What did labour platforms do to protect workers during COVID-19?

Digital labour platforms had to react fast to COVID-19 impacts. Three reports highlight what platforms did (or said they would do) on this front.

Quoting from the Fairwork Foundation article that explains the report: 

“First, there is a gap between rhetoric and reality: platforms have been far better at publicising responses than at actually delivering them to workers. 

Second, there is a skew in stakeholder focus: platform responses have served shareholders, investors and customers before workers, even though it is workers who form the foundation of all value for the platform. 

Third, there is timidity: while governments have torn up ideologies and rulebooks, platforms have been only incremental in their response and have too often used the language of the get-out clause rather than that of the guarantee. 

Platforms have loaded risks and responsibilities onto others: too many platforms interpret “wash your hands” less in terms of the virus and more in terms of their responsibilities to their workers; throwing that responsibility onto governments for financial support and onto individual workers for their own protection from coronavirus. 

Finally, there is a gap between needs and policies: between what workers require in order to stay safe—free from poverty and free from infection—and what platforms are currently providing.”

12. What is the situation of gig workers in India?

There are numerous reports about the gig economy and gig workers’ situation around the world but most of them are focused on the western world countries. That’s one of the reasons WageIndicator Platform Workers: Decent Rights & Pay project has included countries like India and South Africa in the study.

In India the platforms that have been included are Amazon India, BigBasket, Dunzo, Flipkart, HouseJoy, Ola, Shadowfax, Supr Daily, Swinggy, Uber, Urban Company and Zomato.

To complement WageIndicator project results we recommend the following reports on gig work in India:

13. What does gig mean?

Gig is a term borrowed from music, where bands are hired for a one-time performance, a ‘gig’. Alternative names are platform economy, sharing economy, collaborative economy, crowd-sourcing economy, e-platforms. Whatever the name, they all use internet based platforms. The gig economy represents non-standard forms of employment, or atypical employment relationships, where it is difficult to assess whether these relationships are autonomous or subordinate in nature.

14. What makes crowd work different from work-on-demand?

The platform economy distinguishes between crowd work and work-on-demand via apps.

Crowd work is performed online and is location-independent, thereby potentially connecting a client and a worker on a global level. Typical crowd work includes software development, content moderation as well as transcription of audios and videos. Examples are UpWork, PeoplePerHour, Toptal, Freelancer and Amazon Mechanical Turk.

The work-on-demand via apps matches the worker and the client digitally and the job is done locally. These activities typically include short haul transportation, food delivery and home services. Major gig economy organizations include Uber, Careem, Lyft (transportation), Deliveroo, Glovo, Foodora, Foodpanda, UberEats (food delivery), Care (providing child and elderly care as well as housekeeping services) and Airbnb (accommodation).

Categorization of Digital Labour Platform

Source: screenshot from “Digital labour platforms and the future of work: Towards decent work in the online world” published by the ILO in 2018

15. Is there a typical platform economy worker?

Platform workers are generally young, starters, part timers, students.  Crowd workers are found mainly amongst marginalized segments of the workforce, who would normally be excluded on account of disability, care responsibilities, or geographical remoteness. It includes female workers and rural workers as well. Governments, especially in developing economies, see the gig economy as a source of jobs for millions of young starters, entering the labour market every year. 

16. What are the good things about the gig economy?

The platform economy may give workers flexibility, in choosing their time and location of work and the kind of work they want to perform. The gig economy makes looking for work easier and creates new kinds of jobs. The driving, cleaning and delivery work were never paid as well as these are now with the advent Uber, Upwork and Deliveroo. It has worked as an ‘upgrade’ for low skilled workers. Source

17. What are the working conditions in the gig economy?

Although the platform economy provides considerable employment opportunities and worker autonomy, there are concerns about the vague employment status (employees vs. independent contractors), low pay and non-payment of wages due to work rejection, lack of social protection (due to misclassification as independent workers) and lack of representation (due to geographical spread of workers).

There are also issues of wage theft (where work is rejected and workers are not paid for their work, or where clients do not pay, or payments go missing and digital labour platforms consider these as mere ‘glitches’ in the system). Also unmotivated deactivation of worker’s accounts is reported (instead of firing them on account of lower ratings and without being given any notice and the opportunity of being heard).  

Flexible, spare work has now become full time work for millions. These so-called ‘independent contractors’ are deprived of any workplace rights, like a century ago. The flexible gig economy has turned into exploitation, without the benefits and protection offered by traditional jobs. While the promise of ‘being your own boss and setting your own working hours’ made millions join, many feel that they are controlled by an invisible hand, the algorithm.

18. Does gig work pay well?

Gig work is fundamentally piece rate work: the more tasks a person completes, the more she earns. Workers often make less than the minimum wage. Often delivery workers have to take unpaid ‘days-of’ if they get injured. They do not have the protection (paid annual leave, sick leave, work injury benefit, severance pay, etc.) that every full time employed worker has, despite them working 10 hours per day.  The algorithm ‘deactivates’ a rider or delivery person without hearing the person out when their ratings drop below a certain level.

Most gig workers use the gigs to supplement their income. And the gig economy still perpetuates gender inequality. as men earn more for the same gig work. Formal education  does not matter in crowd work; here rather the years of experience and the reputation scores help to get more work.

19. How is the platform economy regulated?

It is a bit of a jungle in the gig economy. While the digital platform companies prefer to designate the platform economy workers as ‘independent contractors’, workers’ rights groups are critical. Given the control platform companies have over the workers, they say, these workers should be treated as employees. Treating them as independent contractors is only meant to save the platform-firms a lot of costs related to wage and working hours, as well as social security contributions (including occupational injury benefits, old age pension, unemployment benefits, healthcare, etc.). Instead these platform companies rely solely on provisions of the civil code, which allows them to consider and treat gig workers as independent contractors.

But new regulations are being introduced, be it still in a chaotic way, differing between countries and industries. Some examples of new regulations, meant to protect gig workers, are listed below (the list is of course not complete)..

  • GigSuper in Australia makes saving for retirement easier for self employed.15
  • Zego provides third-party liability insurance (e.g. where a rider hits a pedestrian) for Deliveroo and other couriers working in Britain. Source
  • Uber, through Aon, provides its drivers the insurance covering against illness, disability and death (for as little as $0.04 for each mile they drive) in US cities. Source
  • Similarly, UberEats, through AXA, provides all couriers accident, sickness and third-party liability coverage in all 9 european countries it is operating in. Source
  • UberEats provides the option of ‘occasional collaboration’, which means that workers can gain up to a maximum of 5000 euros gross per year. In big cities - and for big customers - UberEats has signed contracts with big delivery companies like Flash Road City srl, which delivers food from McDonald's.
  • According to Linkiesta Source, riders who work with UberEats in Milan earn 3 euros per hour plus 1 euro per delivery. When eligible, UberEats riders are also provided the free Partner Protection program Source, which includes work accidents benefits, disability benefit, once only payment (1000 euros) in case of maternity/paternity, injury/sickness benefit for up to 15 days. To be eligible, a rider must have completed 30 deliveries in the previous 8 weeks. 
  • New York City has enacted the ‘Freelance is not Free Act’ in 2016. The Act establishes and enhances protection for freelance workers, specifically the right to a written contract, timely and full payment as well as protection from retaliation.
  • The El Khomri law in France, passed in 2016, tries to regulate certain aspects of the platform economy and protect the rights of the workers. The legislation requires the digital platforms to provide work injury insurance as well as right to continued professional training. The platform workers can form and join a trade union and also take collective action (strikes).
  • In a December 2017 decision, the European Court of Justice declared Uber a ‘service in the field of transport’, thus subject to national regulations. The European Union is also working on a directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union. The directive specifically includes platform workers. Source
  • The Fair Work Commission (Australia’s industrial relations tribunal), has recently concluded in two cases that Uber-drivers were independent contractors and thus could not bring unfair dismissal claims under the Fair Work Act 2009.
  • Nearly all states in the USA have enacted Uber-related (transport services) laws in the last couple of years. These laws treat Uber and other ride hailing service drivers as ‘independent contractors’. 
  • Sometimes, riders who exceed the 5000 euros threshold per year - and want to work full time - end up working for these delivery companies as self-employed or with a continuous collaboration contract.
  • UberEats provides a free insurance package for its independent couriers in the food delivering business in nine European markets (Austria, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK). Source

20. Italy: Platform Economy Regulations

In Italy, around 1 million workers are ‘employed’ by the gig economy, and food delivery riders represent 1% of the labour force. Recently it has drawn a lot of attention because of some accidents involving riders.

To try and regulate the conditions of food delivery riders - after one deadly accident - the government had expressed the desire to include a law about riders’ rights in the Decreto Dignità (Dignity Decree, 3rd August 2018), but it didn’t happen.

Currently, being a rider means working in precarious conditions: according to Lettera43 , Source, 10% of these workers have a co.co.co. contract (continuous collaboration contract), and 50% work as ‘occasional collaborators’, which means that the ‘employer’ keeps 20% of the amount to pay taxes on behalf of the worker. However, this type of collaboration doesn’t cover any sick leave, maternity leave or holidays, and it is legal only when a person earns less than 5000 euros gross per year. If one earns more, the option is to set up a company  and get a VAT-number. This means that the worker is a self-employed / independent contractor and has to take care of their own pension, taxes, etc.

Deliveroo offers contracts with payment per hour (7 euros per hour plus 1 euro per delivery), but the rider can also opt for payment per delivery only (5 euros), which seems to be more profitable. Deliveroo hired by the company as employees after an ‘illegitimate dismissal’ Source. Foodora is no longer working in Italy, but this decision by the court of Turin supports the idea that the freedom to work given to the riders makes them freelancers by definition.

Uber is active in Italy only as Uber Black (car rental with driver) or Uber Taxi, which means that special licences are needed and the work options are very limited. This is because the basic Uber service with common people working as drivers has been declared illegal.

The freedom to choose exists when the platform work is not the main source of income. But if a person has to make their living exclusively through the platform, then there is no freedom  because the rider is subdued to the app’s incentivized hours to be able to earn enough. Also, when one works as an independent contractor - the only option if one wants to make more than 5000 euros per year - almost 50% of the income has to be spent on social security and taxes.

21. The Netherlands: Platform Economy Regulations

A Dutch court has decided in January 2019 that independent contractors working for Deliveroo have the right to an employment contract. Because of this decision, the general labour regulation should apply to these workers. For example, Deliveroo has to pay them a minimum wage. Moreover, the collective agreement for the transport of professional goods applies to them. Source

According to an earlier verdict by the court of Amsterdam in July 2018, delivery people working for Deliveroo were seen as independent contractors. That court decision was based on the written agreement between the worker and Deliveroo. For this new decision, however, the court has looked into the actual working conditions. According to the freelance agreement, the worker is allowed to let someone else do their job and to freely accept or deny delivery orders. Nevertheless, the court found that, in practice, the worker does not have this freedom. The worker's position would be harmed if they should invoke these contract clauses.

Uber drivers are currently seen as independent contractors. The Uber app connects private drivers to users. When drivers use the app, they have to accept Uber’s terms and conditions, but they can cancel their involvement with Uber at any given moment. Drivers cannot establish their own rates, as true entrepreneurs would, but are bound by a maximum rate. However, they can choose their own working hours. Due to Dutch regulations for taxi drivers, Uber drivers have to own a special license plate, a taxi permit and a driver card.

As Uber drivers are also not seen as regular workers, the general labour regulation does not apply to them. Uber sees itself as a service that matches supply and demand, not as an employer. Any Dutch regulation or court verdict have still to be established. Since January 2019, though, the municipality of Amsterdam tries to work out healthy working conditions with Uber for their drivers. Uber drivers in Amsterdam are involved in more accidents than other taxi drivers. This might relate to (the lack of control over) their long working hours.

22. Pakistan: Platform Economy Regulations

As specified on the Uber website, the drivers are considered ‘independent contractors’  Source

Therefore, the general labour legislation is not applicable to them. The Uber drivers are regulated by the contract/partnership agreement which is concluded between the parties. The provisions of such contracts must be in line with the guidelines for contracts as specified in the Contracts Act, 1872 and the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Similar is the case of Careem (another ride hailing service in Pakistan).

On the other hand, Foodpanda (a food delivery service) treats food delivery persons as employees (part time or full time employees). Thus, Foodpanda workers fall under the local labour legislation. Source

Gig economy issues in Pakistan are: long working hours (12-14 hours per day) to be eligible for bonuses and make a decent living especially in view of the initial investment on the vehicle; long wait for work; limited work since supply outpaces demand thus leading to long working hours; low fare rates. There are security issues as well; two ride hailing service drivers were killed in 2017-18 during a late night drop-off. There have also been complaints of sexual harassment by the women passengers against the drivers. The drivers with these ride hailing firms have been complaining of low profits and a lack of grievance registration mechanisms.

23. South Africa: Platform Economy Regulations

A number of digital platforms are represented in South Africa, including Uber, Uber Eats, Airbnb and Taxify.

However, according to a 2018 report by Accenture, South Africa is not seen as platform ready: it ranks 14 out of 16 G20 countries on Accenture's Platform Readiness Index.

Despite being home to the highest number of digital platforms in Sub-Saharan Africa, the country's poor physical infrastructure, skills shortages, and lack of a stable government are getting in the way of the country's platform readiness, says the study. Improvement for SA includes two critical platform success factors: creating an enabling environment and growing critical mass. Source

As a result, the status of gig economy workers is unregulated in terms of South African labour laws, leaving ‘giggers’ in a vulnerable position - although this is being challenged. In 2017 the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) issued a ruling that seven Uber drivers who had been ‘deactivated’ from the Uber platform and had subsequently referred unfair dismissal claims to the CCMA were not independent contractors, but must be considered employees. This means these drivers are given employee protection in terms of the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Uber South Africa has appealed the ruling and is currently awaiting judgment. Source

An added complication, although information so far is mainly anecdotal, is that many Uber and Taxify drivers are not South African, and are not in the country legally. This places drivers in a very vulnerable position in terms of not being able to negotiate for decent work.

There are no updated figures available for gig economy workers in South Africa, except for  Airbnb’s community of home hosts in South Africa, which has grown to date to over 35,000. The majority of them are women (65%).[3]

24. How big is the gig economy on a global scale?

There is no aggregated global data regarding gig workers (yet). The lack of an agreed definition makes it difficult to aggregate data. But what is known, is presented below.

Worldwide the gig economy is rapidly growing, but still relatively small. The part of workers who use it as their primary source of income is modest, particularly in mature markets. In the US, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Spain, just 1% to 4% of workers cited gig platforms as their primary work source.

The pan-European COLLEEM survey indicates that from the total workforce, sporadic platform workers represent 2.4%; marginal platform workers 3.1%; secondary platform workers 4.1%; and finally, main platform workers 1.4%. In the same study Spain (18%), Netherlands (14%), Portugal (13%) and Ireland (12.5%) are the countries where a more substantial part of the workforce finds work via digital platforms. 

The gig workers proportion of the overall labor force was greater in China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil. The share was biggest in China, with 12%. This higher share no doubt reflects the larger proportion of informal employment in emerging markets. It also shows that workers in emerging markets have adopted labor-sharing platforms faster than workers in mature markets.

Measuring gig work as a primary source of income may underestimate its true size and growing global significance. An additional 3% to 10% of workers in mature economies, and more than 30% in some developing countries, reported using gig platforms as a secondary source of income. Source

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In any case gig work is a global phenomenon. Check some additional reports.In 

25. How many people work in the platform economy?

While it is difficult to estimate the size of the gig economy, the World Development Report 2019 mentions the following statistics. Worldwide, the total freelancer population is estimated at around 84 million, or less than 3 percent of the global labor force of 3.5 billion. Those in the platform economy may also hold a traditional job and do gig work to supplement their income. There are also estimates that 0.5 per cent (some statistics indicate 1%) of the labour force in the United States to 5% in Europe is engaged in the platform economy.

The Bureau of Labour Statistics in USA reported in June 2018 that nearly 10% of the American workforce (16.5 million) are working under contingent and alternative employment arrangements. Source

The Freelancing in America 2018 report, published by Upwork and the Freelancers Union indicated that 56.7 million people in the US freelanced during 2017-18.Source

Figure 1: Countries where gig workers are active in %

Microtask Workers Lives

Source: screenshot from “Job quality in the platform economy” published by ILO (2018)

There is also an Online Labour Index (OLI) that provides an online gig economy equivalent to conventional labour market statistics. The Index measures the supply and demand of online freelance labour around the world by tracking the number of projects and tasks across various platforms in real time. The data collected by the Index also shows where the gig work is being done worldwide. Source

26. Is the gig economy fair for workers?

Flexibility and little regulation come with the risk of unfair treatment. Some improvements proposed by labour rights groups to make the gig economy fairer for workers:

  • Workers should not be mis classified as self-employed if they are employees in practice;
  • Pay should at the very least comply with minimum wage regulations in the worker’s location;  
  • Workers should have a legally binding way to make their needs and desires heard to platform operators, through union membership, collective bargaining, and, in countries with such structures, works councils and co-determination rights;
  • Code of conduct: in the absence of collective bargaining agreements, platforms should establish clear codes of conduct for members, including published procedures for workers to raise concerns; and the platforms should demonstrate enforcement of those codes;
  • Worker evaluations and ratings should not be based on non-payment rates and workers should be given reasons for any negative ratings;
  • Workers should be able to contest non-payment, negative evaluations, qualification test outcomes, accusations of code of conduct violations, and account closures;
  • Platform terms – including the terms for payment, work evaluation, and dispute resolution – should be presented in a format that is easy to understand, clear and concise;
  • Countries need to adapt their social protection systems to include platform economy workers where they are generally still regarded as self-employed;
  • Adapt social insurance mechanisms to cover workers in all forms of employment, independent of the type of contract and by lowering the contribution thresholds;
  • Use technology to simplify contribution and benefit payments.

Based on “Fifteen Criteria for a Fairer Gig Economy” by M. Six Silberman of the IG Metall and “Digital labour platforms and the future of work: Towards decent work in the online world” by ILO (2018)

27. Court cases related to the platform economy

  1. The British Supreme Court ruled in favour of plumber of Pimlico Plumbers who was designated as an independent contractor by the company. The Court ruled that the plumber, Mr. Gary Smith, could not be classified as “independent contractor”. Source
  2. In November 2017, the Employment Appeals Tribunal upheld a ruling by the Employment Tribunal that Uber must treat its drivers as “workers” entitled to the minimum wage and holiday pay.

28. Is there “A” future of work?

No! There is not “A” future of work. The futures of work are being shaped as we speak! It is important that we do not limit ourselves to a single future and that we spend time designing desirable futures of work. 

Nesta

https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/speculative-design-a-design-niche-or-a-new-tool-for-government-innovation/

Futures design is not an easy task at all! We recommend taking a look at these two reports:

1. The Eurofound research project “Future scenarios of platform work”’explores the economic, labour market and societal impacts of two types of platform work – platform-determined routine work and worker-initiated moderately skilled platform work – by 2030. The project identified key driving forces deemed to substantially influence the development of these two types of platform work. These driving forces and associated hypotheses were then used to derive potential platform work scenarios, and, from these, pointers were developed on what policy could do to make a desirable future happen and to avoid an undesirable one. 

Eurofound

Source: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/data/platform-economy/future-scenarios/driving-forces 

2. The “Four Futures of Work” from the RSA Future Work Centre. Based on detailed ‘scenario modelling’ with leading engineers Arup, the study details four very different ‘scenarios’ for the future of work in the UK: 1) The Big Tech Economy describes a world where most technologies develop at a rapid pace, from self-driving cars to 3D printing. 2) The Precision Economy portrays a future of hyper-surveillance. Technological progress is moderate, but a proliferation of sensors allows firms to create value by capturing and analysing more information on objects, people and the environment. 3) The Exodus Economy is characterised by an economic slowdown. A crash on the scale of 2008 dries up funding for innovation and keeps the UK in a low-skilled, low-productivity and low-paid rut. 4) The Empathy Economy envisages a future of responsible stewardship. Technology advances at a clip, but so too does public awareness of its dangers. Tech companies self-regulate to stem concerns and work hand in hand with external stakeholders to create new products that work on everyone’s terms. 

WBG

Source: https://wbg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Women-and-the-Future-of-Work.pdf  

As observed from these reports there is not “A” single future of work but potential scenarios. Futures do not exist, only our decisions (action and inaction) exist. It is important to keep a critical stance on the impacts of technology on the labour market and to act accordingly.

29. What are the main challenges for platform workers?

Platform work is indeed full of challenges. 

Some of the challenges originate from the labour market configuration (work pressure, autonomy in work organisation, etc.), some of them are linked to the fact of developing non-standard work (unstable income, access to social protection, collective representation, etc.)  and some of them are really specific for platform workers (lack of contractual relationship, surveillance via digital tools, determination of the employer, etc.). In addition different types of sectors and specific platform design choices will generate different challenges for the workers.

EU-Commission

Source: Study to gather evidence on the working conditions of platform workers (European Commission)

The report “Study to gather evidence on the working conditions of platform workers” from the European Commission is an excellent starting point to better understand platform workers’ challenges. 

In the report the challenges related to the working conditions and social protection of platform workers are mapped in accordance with a job-quality framework based on the Work, Employment and Social Relations (WES) model. Other challenges relevant to platform work are also incorporated.

Challenges were found to vary a great deal across different types of platform work. For example, the physical environment differs for online and on-location forms of platform work, and autonomy in work organisation changes depending on whether the client, platform, or platform worker determines which tasks are performed, when and how. The importance given to particular challenges also varies across countries, depending on their policy and legal frameworks. For example, social protection may be a greater challenge in countries where the self-employed have significantly less statutory coverage than employees.

From a national public policy perspective, while very few responses target working conditions and social protection for all platform workers, over half of all national responses specifically concerned personal transportation and (food) delivery platforms. This may reflect a lack of awareness of online platform workers, or the difficulty of addressing challenges associated with online platform work at national level.

Overall the gap analysis suggests the following:

  • Virtually no significant challenges are entirely resolved by national or EU responses and instruments. The sole exception is data protection, but even for this challenge, proper enforcement must be ensured.
  • National responses at least partly address the most significant challenges for on-location platform workers, but do very little for online platform workers.
  • Platform workers meeting the criteria for worker status are generally better protected, yet even here EU tools are not always fit for purpose because of the differences between traditional and platform work.
  • In spite of recent legislative initiatives, the impact of assessed EU instruments is still limited in addressing the working conditions and social protection challenges of platform workers, in particular when they are self-employed.

This analysis might provide a useful framework for non-EU countries.

https://www.ft.com/content/84de88bc-c5ee-11e7-a1d2-6786f39ef675 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a046b06e5274a0ee5a1f171/Uber_B.V._and_Others_v_Mr_Y_Aslam_and_Others_UKEAT_0056_17_DA.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/nov/10/uber-loses-appeal-employment-rights-workers 

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/30/uber-challenges-ruling-on-drivers-rights-at-court-of-appeal-london

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