Digital labour platforms are digital networks that use technology, such as software algorithms and data analytics, to connect workers with clients, manage work assignments and transactions, and monitor worker performance.
Working in digital labour platforms can be provide opportunities to those who face discrimination in traditional labour markets as clients often do not know the worker’s gender, age, education, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Platform work also allows a high degree of flexibility and autonomy that many may find desirable. As a result, labour platform were initially considered part of the “collaborative economy”.
However, these benefits come at a cost: firstly, platform workers are in most cases hired as independent contractors, which means that they may not be covered by basic employment rights, including sick or holiday pay, minimum wage, pension rights, even though legislation at the European level is being discussed around this issue. Secondly, the algorithms presiding digital platforms are built on the collection and processing of massive amounts of data, which may pose a threat to workers’ privacy.
The JRC-COLLEEM (COLLaborative Economy and EMployment) surveys, launched in 2017 and 2018 respectively, were among the first to estimate the size of the platform economy at the European level, and to analyse the socio-economic profiles and working conditions of platform workers in Europe. The COLLEEM project contributed to a better definition and operationalisation of platform work and provided much-needed evidence on the phenomenon.
As features of digital labour platforms become common in conventional workplaces, the JRC also monitors the practice of Algorithmic Management.