The Platform Economy: A Workplace on the Internet
Cloudwork, Crowdwork, Gig work – all of these terms stem from a new form of work where the next assignment is only a click away and is carried out online. How does Platform work function? where is it headed? and what opportunities and risks does it present to people who are employed in the platform economy? are answered in our overview.
Today many services can simply be requested through a platform: ordering delivery, booking a cleaning worker, even contracting a handyman. These business models based on the internet and the digital marketplace have left a lasting imprint on our everyday life and the working world. Above all, services are offered and ordered very simply over platforms.
In the platform economy, we can find a variety of configurations of the basic platform model. One noticeable difference between them is found in whether the job offered through the platform is completed online or offline. Cloudwork is defined as a service which is offered and competed online; this includes the creation or the translation of text, for example. Gig work, however, encompasses the services which are ordered online but are completed at a specified location, such as food delivery, handyman work or house cleaning services.
The most commonly used platforms in Germany are Airbnb, Lieferando and Freelancer. Following these are Clickworker, Testbirds, Amazon Mechanical Turk and Uber. These results come from Bertelsmann-Stiftung's study „Plattformarbeit in Deutschland“ (2019). The study also concluded that 99% of the people who work in the platform economy are working for a platform as a second job beside a primary job. The majority of platform workers are urbanites.
According to the study "Labour market and the platform economy" commissioned by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the attractiveness of platform work can be found in the flexibility of the working hours, the independence it offers the workers, and the cost-efficient manner in which platform work can be completed. Additionally, better work-life balance, the freedom to use ones innovative capacity and collaborative problem solving are also often named as positive aspects.
The same study by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung shows, however, that platform workers have less social protection than workers normally are entitled to and they have no guarantee of protection. Expert opinion believes that there exists the possibility of ruinous competition between platform workers for lucrative contracts. This demonstrates that while this line of work has its advantages, it also comes with its risks, and therefore policies that guarantee good working conditions and social securities are needed.
The operators of online platforms, workers and politicians need to work closely together if we want to shape the future of platform work. Possible policy approaches include the guaranteeing of social protections and more rights for platform workers, regulating the price market hosted on platforms and the relaxation of barriers between workers and contract workers. This is how we can transform the perception of jobs in the platform economy into a good, attractive and flexible alternative to the traditional labour market.