This project sheds some lights on the complexity of platform ecosystem by providing visualisation of several regulatory aspects of platform work at the national level in over 30 countries. The methodology of this project is based on the data and evidence collected from the secondary sources available at the national level.
The platform economy began to emerge in Europe in the mid-2000s driven by rapidly developing technological innovations such as widespread use of the internet and mobile devices along with online applications. It has been developing dynamically, taking on new forms, creating business models that fall outside previous categories and at the same time impacting the organisation of work and working conditions. Some estimates suggest that 42.7 million people in the EU-27 will opt to work in the platform economy by 2030.
However, much still remains unknown when it comes to platform companies and platform work, i.e., their number and financial turnover, the number of users (consumers) and workers, socio-demographic characteristics and working conditions faced by platforms workers. The absence of legally binding definitions for platform activities and the provision of work is causing a deeper fragmentation in the labour market in the EU, leading to various misinterpretations of labour law and creating regulative loopholes for deceptive practices.
At the Euroepan level, the European Commission published in December 2021 a proposal for a directive on the working conditions of platform workers. Aims of the proposal are:
The Legislative Train Schedule can be found here.
At the national level, an important development has been observed in the case of Portugal, Italy and Spain. In the attempt to recognise obligations that platforms have toward workers who use vehicles to perform their work through platforms, newly adopted legislation has introduced definitions of platforms and their activities that fall within the regulatory framework of traditional labour relations. Unlike in other national cases, Spanish legislation introduces the notion of algorithmic management, which is a crucial legal development stipulating the disclosure of algorithms used by platforms to workers’ representatives.
In our view, there are several areas within the platform ecosystem that require further attention from policymakers. Specifically, we highlight the importance of national registries to collect relevant information on platform companies, the use of automated systems in platform-mediated work and the importance of intersectionality in establishing a social dialogue and future policymaking.
National authorities in most EU Member States such as labour inspectorates, social protection institutions and tax authorities are often not aware of the heterogeneity of online platforms’ business models, how many people are working based on these and with what employment status work is being performed by workers. Establishing national registries responsible for collecting relevant information on platform companies can have a potential in evidence-informed policy-making, by providing necessary information e.g. the number of platform companies, their turnover as well as the number of people being employed through these platforms.
Considering that platform work is here to stay and will even expand, subordination to a form of algorithmic management requires better understanding, especially regarding the way different algorithmic management techniques or ranking and monitoring impact everyday working conditions and might have long-term negative effects leading to an increased level of stress, poor work-life balance and income. To develop policy options for transparent monitoring and fair decision-making systems, as an initial step it is important to develop a clear understanding of cross-platform variations in algorithmic management control for both types of workers: those who are considered employees and the self-employed.
As the number of platform workers is expected to grow in the near future, future policy options need to focus on migrant and women’s experiences in the platform economy in order to generate a better understanding of how platform work offers certain opportunities and challenges to different groups in society. Future policy responses should include a strategy to bring about a stable income, social insurance coverage and safety measures for all workers, including those who are prone to more vulnerabilities such as migrants and/or women.
Platform work provides essential income and opportunities to tens of millions of people around the world. However, most platform workers are not protected by existing employment law or collective bodies, meaning they face low pay, precarity, and poor and dangerous working conditions.
Therefore, FES Future of Work has decided to become a Fairwork supporter to contribute to a fairer future of work in the digital platform economy. The Fairwork project evaluates working conditions on digital platforms against five principles of fair work: fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair representation. FES Future of Work shares these principles.
With this commitment, we also want to encourage other organisations to join us and Fairwork in our efforts of creating a fairer future of work in the digital platform economy.