The “platform economy” emerged in the early 2000s alongside the growth of the Internet, providing opportunities for the production and delivery of a range of services delivered through online marketplaces (platforms). Digital labour platforms take a variety of forms, although it is useful to distinguish between crowdwork and work on demand via apps (De Stefano, 2016). Crowdwork usually refers to activities or services that are performed online, irrespective of the location. Although some of these jobs entail
the movement of work from the offline to the online economy, in other instances they are new tasks that permit the smooth functioning of web-based industries, such as content moderation on social media sites, the cataloguing of online products, and the transcription of YouTube videos. Work on demand via apps refers to physical activities or services that are performed locally; typical activities include transportation, delivery and home services. In these cases, an app is used to match labour demand and supply, usually within a geographically defined area.
While employment through digital labour platforms remains small – estimates range from 0.5 per cent of the labour force in the United States (Farrell and Greig, 2016) to 5 per cent in Europe (European Parliament, 2017)1 – it is expected that digital employment will expand in the future, as more jobs, or tasks, move from the offline to the online economy. In addition, some developing country governments, including Malaysia and Nigeria, have already adopted strategies to encourage their workers to engage in digital labour (Graham et al., 2017). Yet little is known about the quality of jobs being generated in the platform economy.
This Issue Brief summarizes some of the existing empirical literature on job quality in the platform economy, particularly crowdworking platforms, drawing upon ILO surveys of crowdworkers and the existing literature.