Alessio Bertolini

University of Glasgow

Labour law and on-demand work

An analysis of policy actors‘ ideas and strategies in the gig economy

Alessio Bertolini, University of Glasgow

» Full paper: ilera-2019-paper-96-Bertolini.pdf

The project developed in this paper is part of the broader ERC- funded research project ‘Work on Demand: Contracting for Work in a Changing Economy’ headed by Professor Ruth Dukes at the University of Glasgow. The umbrella project explores the current viability of systems of labour law in the face of an increased use of casual contracts, work on demand and ‘gig’ jobs in contemporary labour markets.

Although there is an emerging academic literature on gig economy work and on proposals for its regulation, scholars have hitherto paid very little attention to how policy makers and stakeholders conceive and think of gig economy work, also in relation to other forms of casual employment, and which policy solutions they are introducing, selecting and discussing and why.

The project explained in this paper explores different policy makers’ and stakeholders’ ideas as regards gig economy work and its regulation in a comparative perspective. It addresses the question whether and how these ideas can be related to the actors’ interests, cognitive frames and their embeddedness in the employment-related institutional framework of the countries considered. The paper uses the economic sociology of law (Dukes, 2018) as a theoretical framework in the conviction that only by considering the complex interaction between economic, social and political factors are we able to fully understand how labour law operates in practice.

The paper focuses on two countries, the UK and Italy, with very different employment relations systems and labour law traditions. While the UK can be regarded as a prime example of a liberal market economy, with a deregulated labour market and a fragmented system of industrial relations , Italy can be considered an example of a coordinated market economy with a highly regulated labour market, albeit only for certain categories of workers (Eichhorst and Marx, 2010; Checchi and Leonardi, 2016). In both countries, the gig economy is a relatively new phenomenon and the regulation of gig economy work is still very much ‘in the making’, with several debates among policy stakeholders’ on gig economy work and how to regulate it.

Using document analysis and semi-structured interviews, this paper explores how these actors perceive and think about gig economy work also in relation to the broader phenomenon of casualization of employment, that is their ideas in terms of problem definition (Mehta, 2010). At the same time, it investigates the actors’ ideas about past, present and future labour law and whether and how it is perceived as inadequate and, if that is the case, their strategies for reform (ideas in terms of policy solution, ibidem). Finally, it analyses whether and how the problem definitions and policy solutions provided by different actors can be related to the broader employment-related institutional framework of the two countries.

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