What is platform work?
Platform work is a new form of organising paid work through digital platforms. Platform workers are accessed online to provide a wide variety of paid services. Some examples of such platforms include Uber, Bolt, and Upwork.
The platform economy has many benefits for both workers and consumers. With low entry requirements and flexible working hours, digital platforms make it easier for people to become self-employed and earn income regardless of their social status.
According to the European Commission, revenues from the platform economy in the EU in 2020 were estimated to be as high as €20 billion. In the EU alone, there are more than 500 digital labour platforms and more than 28 million platform workers.
What are some of the challenges facing platform workers?
Platform workers are almost always classified as self-employed persons by the platforms. In most legal systems in Europe, this means that they have no or limited access to labour protection, such as collective bargaining rights, health and safety protection, and social security schemes.
In addition, employment and income are often unpredictable and determined by algorithms that are beyond workers’ control. Working conditions vary depending on the type of platform, the nature of the tasks, and the level of skills required to perform those tasks.
The EU directive on improving working conditions in platform work
In December 2021, the European Commission proposed a directive to improve the working conditions in platform work. The proposed directive provides a list of criteria to determine whether the platform is an employer. If the platform meets the necessary criteria, it is legally presumed to be an employer. As a result of the proposed directive, it is estimated that between 1.7 million and 4.1 million people could be re-classified as workers. Others may become genuinely self-employed as some platforms may adjust their business models.
Being classified as workers means that platform workers will have access to:
- guaranteed rest time and paid holidays;
- at least the national or sectoral minimum wage (where applicable);
- safety and health protection;
- unemployment, sickness and health care benefits;
- parental leave;
- pension rights;
- benefits relating to accidents at work and occupational diseases.
The Commission’s proposed directive also aims to increase transparency in the use of algorithms by platforms, ensuring human monitoring and the right to contest automated decisions.
National authorities often struggle to access data relating to platforms and the people working through them. The Commission’s proposal wants to bring more transparency around platforms by clarifying existing obligations to declare work to national authorities. The new rules will require platforms to make some information about their activities and the people who work through them available to national authorities.
Other resources on platform workers’ rights
Platform economy initiatives: This web repository of Eurofound gathers a wide range of national initiatives relating to platform economy. You can use the filtering to do a country-specific search.
Initiatives to improve conditions for platform workers: Aims, methods, strengths and weaknesses: This Eurofound report assesses some of the initiatives in the Member States that aim to tackle the negative aspects of platform work and offers recommendations for further action.
Questions and answers: Improving working conditions in platform work: The European Commission answers commonly asked questions relating to platform economy and provides more information on its proposed directive as well as links to resources.
Platform work is just one of the options available for young jobseekers to get started on their career paths. Check out this article to learn more about the traineeship opportunities available to young people in the EU.
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- Publication date
- 17 March 2022
- European Labour Authority | Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
- Business / EntrepreneurshipLabour market news / mobility newsNews/reports/statisticsYouth
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