T4-WS4: Workshop: Gig economy and its implications for social dialogue and workers’ protection

6 September 2019, 11:00–12:30
6 September 2019, 15:00–16:30

Johannes Kiess, University of Siegen
Maria M. Mexi, University of Geneva

Workshop: Gig economy and its implications for social dialogue and workers’ protection


  • Johannes Kiess, University of Siegen
  • Maria M. Mexi, University of Geneva

The workshop is based on a collaborative project funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies and coordinated by Jean-Michel Bonvin (University of Geneva) and will present results from our research in four countries. 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 project seeks to generate a better understanding of how the gig economy is transforming 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 identifies 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 comprises a thorough examination of case studies of ‘crowdwork’ and ‘work-on-demand via app’ following a cross-national comparative design studying Switzerland, Germany, Greece, and UK. The national cases have been studied via legal frameworks, policy debates, and the national model of industrial relations. In addition, in each country, case studies dominating the national agenda and policy debates have been investigated in-depth. The workshop will present the results of the fieldwork, which are currently also prepared for publication. A first presentation will highlight the challenges and potential disruptions of the gig economy in relation to (national) industrial relations. Then, four papers will present the main findings of the national studies. A final presentation will discuss the need for global standards.

The rise of the gig economy as an emerging reality

Its potential disruption and the need to find answers to its challenges

Jean-Michel Bonvin, University of Geneva
Maria M. Mexi, University of Geneva

The “gig economy” represents an emerging phenomenon with the potential of disrupting traditional labour market arrangements and forms of labour representation in Europe and around the world. While the academic and policy debate is still polarized, we put forward a more balanced and comprehensive perspective drawing on new cross-country evidence.

An injury to all?

Rights, wrongs and the gig economy in a polarised context

Simone Baglioni, University of Lodz
Tom Montgomery, Glasgow Caledonian University

The gig economy presents a further challenge to the security of workers in a context where the UK Government and the trade union movement have an antagonistic relationship. Could the impact of the gig economy be a catalyst for coordinated and collective responses to this disruptive force?

Exploitation 4.0 or social protection 4.0?

The challenges of the gig economy to the German Model

Johannes M. Kiess, University of Siegen

This presentation explores how German policy makers and social partners view and handle challenges of the gig economy to worker’s protection and social dialogue. The main question is: How does the coordinated German Model – its institutions, stakeholders, and ideological base – cope with the disruptive force of the gig economy?

Social partnership and gig economy in Greece

Continuity or discontinuity

Maria M. Mexi, University of Geneva

In crisis-ridden Greece, the growth of digital platforms has provided employment for large segments of the population. However, gig workers mostly engage in atypical employment, lacking social protections and labour representation. This has intensified traditional divides between outsiders-insiders in the labour market, giving rise to a “polarized/state-centred” regime.

How can social dialogue contribute to the enhancement of gig workers’ social protection?

A case study on bike deliverers

Jean-Michel Bonvin, University of Geneva
Nicola Cianferoni , University of Geneva
Luca Perrig, University of Geneva

A fierce competition is ongoing among Swiss bike deliveries since the entry of digital platforms in the market. A case study shows that couriers were able to build a mobilization and negotiate a collective labor agreement that contributed to the enhancement of gig workers' social protection.

The future of work and social dialogue in the platform economy

Challenges and opportunities

Kostas Papadakis, ILO
Maria M. Mexi, University of Geneva

The rise of global digital labour markets upsets national labour markets and raises the need for a more ''interventionist'' role for international organizations. If international organizations seek to set global standards, what could be optimum solutions and how can social dialogue operate as a global regulatory alternative?

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