T4-WS3: Workshop: Experiences of work in the platform economy

6 September 2019, 09:00–10:30

Ways in, ways through, ways out of the platform labour market

Simon Joyce, University of Leeds
Mark Stuart, University of Leeds
Chris Forde, University of Leeds

Workshop: Experiences of work in the platform economy

Ways in, ways through, ways out of the platform labour market


  • Simon Joyce, University of Leeds
  • Mark Stuart, University of Leeds
  • Chris Forde, University of Leeds

Research on platform work – by which we mean paid work mediated by online platforms – has led to considerable speculation about the future of work (Vandaele 2018). However, we still know relatively little about the realities of the working lives of platform workers and how this might vary across different platforms. This workshop addresses these shortcomings by bringing together contributions from leading European researchers, including a unique mix of academic and policy-oriented backgrounds.

The four papers examine different aspects of the experience of platform work, and together offer new empirical insights and deeper conceptual understanding of the complexity of platform work as a form of employment. In particular, we are interested in the place of platform work in the wider context of work and labour markets, as well as its place in the working lives of the people who do it.

The workshop will explore the following dimensions of working in the platform economy:

  • Pathways into platform work – How and why do workers enter the platform economy? Consideration will be given to prior work histories, the balance of platform work and wider household realities and the relationship between platform work and other forms of employment.
  • The types and conditions of platform work – Consideration will be given to the types of work performed via platforms, in terms of work content, skills level, length of tasks, remuneration and performance management. Does such work offer high levels of worker autonomy or job satisfaction or is such work indicative of a wider trend towards ‘gig work’ and ‘bad jobs’? Does platform work offer a viable source of long-term work, income security, and social protection?
  • Worker mobilisation and emergent forms of collective action – To what extent are platform workers able to represents their interests and, where they are, through what means is this achieved? Set against a backdrop of wider debates on bogus self-employment and lack of social protections, emergent forms of collective action are apparent. But we still know very little about the dynamics of such worker mobilisation, their relationship with established forms of labour organisation and ultimately the gains for workers’ rights that are possible. Are new models of collective action possible?
  • Pathways from platform work – Evidence suggests that workers turnover in the platform economy is high, suggesting that workers engage in such work for a limited duration and then move on. What are the dynamics of such pathways, and does platform work represent a temporary form of employment to make ends meet (for example while studying) or does it provide a starting point for particular pathways into more established forms of employment or new types of career trajectory?

It is anticipated that the workshop will run for either 1.5 or preferably 2 hours. If the former, each paper will be allocated 18 minutes, with 12 mins for presentation and then a general 30 minute discussion after the presentations.


  • Vandaele, K., 2018. Will trade unions survive in the platform economy? Emerging patterns of platform workers’ collective voice and representation in Europe, ETUI Working Paper 2018.05, ETUI, Brussels.

On-demand digital economy

Can experience ensure work and income security for microtask workers?

Uma Rani Amara, International Labour Organization (ILO)

To date, little research has investigated issues around platform work dependency, income security, and skills development. This paper explores the extent to which platform work ensures work and income security and provides opportunities for skill development for workers with different levels of experience, based on novel survey data collected on five globally operating microtask platforms and in-depth interviews with workers.

Slash workers and changing models of labour regulation

Ivana Pais, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan

One consequence of the platform economy is the spread of ‘slash’ workers (someone who is an X/Y/Z), who often lack an adequate level of social protection. In this paper, we present first results from the SWIRL project (Slash Workers and Industrial ReLations), which investigates existing regulatory models and aims to develop new prototypes of industrial relations.

Work in the platform economy

Deliveroo riders in Belgium and the SMart arrangement

Jan Drahokoupil, European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)

This paper presents a case study of the food delivery platform, Deliveroo, in Belgium. Workers were employed by Deliveroo through an intermediary, SMart – an arrangement which terminated during the research. The case offers insights on the nature of platform work and platform workers, worker preferences, platform strategies, and the role of local regulations.

Platform work in working lives

Ways into and ways out of platform work

Simon Joyce, University of Leeds
Mark Stuart, University of Leeds
Chris Forde, University of Leeds

This paper contributes towards understanding platform work in the wider context of working lives. We present first findings from ongoing research based on employment-biographical interviews with present and former platform workers, examining in particular circumstances and motivations for entering and for leaving platform work.

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