Gig Economy and its Implications for Social Dialogue and Workers’ Protection

What are the challenges of the gig economy in terms of social dialogue and workers’ protection?

Project Summary

New work concepts resulting from the digital transformation are revolutionising the world of work. The ‘gig economy’ or ‘sharing economy’ has profound implications for social dialogue and workers’ protection. While some see gigging as a way into the workforce for the hard-to-employ, others portend a pessimistic future of workers with little or no income-security protections. The projects seeks to generate a better understanding of how the gig economy is transforming the social dialogue and workers’ protection and to provide an integrated picture of its implications for the role of employers, workers, government and society at large. The research will identify concrete policy options for public policy and social dialogue actors to meet the challenges of the gig economy. Thus, it will contribute to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognises the pivotal role of decent work in realising the 17 Social Development Goals. The three main questions guiding the research are:

  • What are the implications of the gig economy for employment arrangements, social protection, and for social dialogue and labour relations in different sectors and countries?
  • How can the technological and business-model innovation of the gig economy be managed and enhanced to ensure it delivers a measure of security and social protection to the millions of workers who are beginning to depend on it for their livelihoods?
  • What should be the role of social dialogue and the social partners in shaping developments in the gig economy and ensuring decent work for ‘crowd workers’?

The core of the research will comprise a thorough examination of case studies of ‘crowdwork’ and ‘work-on-demand via app’ in the sectors of transport, hospitality and banking. The research will follow a cross-national comparative design studying Switzerland, Germany, Greece and UK.

Academic Output

Working Paper

Gig economy and its Implications for Social Dialogue and Workers’ Protection

In just a few years, digital platforms have become key actors in several marketplaces. They act as digital intermediaries and create new market orders built on powerful socio-technical infrastructures with effects on both market and employment relations. Traditional market participants have to cope with the challenges of the platform business model. Though the gig economy represents an emerging phenomenon, it has the potential of disrupting the social contract in our society since it changes terms of exchange on the labor market, in terms of increasing competition between workers and weakening their status. Indeed, the status of the so-called “gig workers” – those employed by the platforms without being considered as dependent workers in most cases – particularly matters in this new configuration since it enables companies to have staff that are not recognized as “employees” and thus are contracted to undertake work without appropriate social protection (De Stefano, 2016).

Report

The gig economy and social partnership in Germany: towards a German Model 4.0?

This chapter asks whether the gig economy may bring about a ―disruption‖ of the German model of social partnership and, consequently, lead to a modified version 4.0 of what the literature describes as the German model of capitalism. Rather late, compared to the debate in the United States, attention towards the gig economy in Germany started to develop only from 2014 onward (Greef and Schroeder 2017; interview Gov07). Explicit references in the political arena are still scarce and scattered across a range of statements, policy fields, and legislative proposals. Moreover, the concept itself (like other buzzwords often used synonymously) covers very different labour market phenomena; its boundaries are nebulous and prospects uncertain. Many issues could be studied focusing on precarious employment (Crouch 2019) instead of a specific form of labour contract (the ―gig‖) unclear in scope (isn‘t classic freelancing already ―gigging‖?).

Report

Social Partnership and Gig Economy in Greece: Continuity or Discontinuity?

Developments in the gig economy have attracted immense attention in academic and policymaking circles recently. Gig economy consists both of work that is transacted via platforms but delivered in a specific locality and of platforms that enable remote working (Wood et al., 2019a). These platforms, operating either in the global or the local gig economy, act as market intermediaries that significantly reduce the overhead costs of outsourcing microtasks (‘gigs’) and offshoring by providing a standardized framework for identifying, contracting and paying workers. A World Bank study estimates that digital outsourcing platforms, bringing millions of clients and workers together to exchange money for labour in the form of digital gigs (Kuek et al., 2015), had annual revenues of $4.8 billion in 2016, and that these will have grown to $15–$25 billion by 2020 (ibid.).

Report

Gig Economy and its Implications for Social Dialogue and Workers’ Protection. Main Findings in Switzerland

This report includes a literature review as well as empirical data collected for the Swiss case of the SNIS project “Gig Economy and its Implications for Social Dialogue and Workers’ Protection”. Its purpose is to evaluate the extent of the social dialogue on platform labour markets in Switzerland and to present the key issues in the public debate that is taking place among academics, policymakers and social partners. We will discuss both local and national contexts in this review. When the context of a particular city seemed relevant, we led case studies that focus on local issues and responses. The gig economy should still be considered an emerging and not stabilized phenomenon in a broader turmoil related to the digitization of the economy and the industry 4.0. The fact that this topic receives a growing attention in the public debate seems to reveal a large consciousness about the potential disruption that it could have for workers’ protection and social dialogue.

Article

Social Dialogue and the Governance of the Digital Platform Economy: ILO and the Role of Social Partners

Over the past few years, the platform economy has been uppermost on academic and policy discussions, as digital platforms and mobile ”apps” like Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit – seeking to connect consumers, businesses and workers – have been rising. As emphasized by a number of international organizations and actors (e.g. OECD, 2019; Eurofound, 2017; European Parliament, 2017), although the share of this type of digital economy is currently low, it is growing fast, generating income for an increasing number of workers. Yet, alongside benefits, concerns remain about the conditions of work.

Research Team

Jean-Michel Bonvin
Coordinator
University of Geneva

Maria Mexi
Co-Coordinator
University of Geneva

Luca Perrig
Principal Member
University of Geneva

Nicola Cianferoni
Principa Member
University of Geneva

Johannes Kiess
Principal Member
University of Siegen

Lucio Baccaro
Associated Member
University of Geneva

Marco Giugni
Associated Member
University of Geneva

Christian Lahusen
Associated Member
University of Siegen

Simone Baglioni
Associated Member
Glasgow Caledonian University

Konstantinos (Kostas) Papadakis
Associated Member
ILO International Labour Organisation

Youcef Ghellab
Associated Member
ILO International Labour Organisation

Yannis Mastrogeorgiou
Associated Member
DIKTIO – Network for Reform in Greece and Europe

Status

completed

Disciplines

Themes

Regions

Countries

Germany, Greece, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Host Institution

Coordinator

Year