Work in the Platform Economy – Policy Challenges in the Face of Gender Gap and Intergenerational Inequality

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Johanna HOFBAUER, Department of Sociology, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Dominik KLAUS, University of Vienna, Austria
Digitalization has led to disruptive change, causing a rise of new forms of business and service provision. Organizations benefit from outsourcing services and use internet platforms to access a more flexible workforce. As platforms take over management duties such as task assignment, coordination and performance assessment, they reduce potential drawbacks for the outsourcing organization.

Furthermore, digitalization is said to create benefits for the workforce and to potentially increase labor market access. Platforms enable the diffusion of gig work and cloud work, thereby increasing job opportunities for those willing to or in need of “working anywhere, anytime”. While existing literature accounts for new opportunities offered to the workforce in disadvantaged labor markets, a number of pitfalls are noted at the same time. Experts have alerted policy-makers to the dangers of the lack of regulation in the sector, reproducing gender gaps and causing intergenerational inequality. Literature has also pointed to the complex problematic of precarious employment, the decline in the quality of work, the increasing work intensification, the blurring boundaries between work and non-work, and the rising disproportion between paid and unpaid labor.

We argue that internet platforms are key agents in shaping opportunities and pitfalls of digital work. They determine the conditions of performance and delivery, the modes of and access to reputation, reshaping the parameters of work identity and social relations. Accounting for varieties of modes of organization, we will provide case studies of different European platforms.

Overall, we dispute technological determinism, arguing that digitalization is neither a one-way road nor imposed upon us by external forces of market society. A better understanding of the mechanisms that platforms use in order to manage labor and exert power upon digital workers is a necessary step towards developing regulations that can reduce inequalities and strengthen the social sustainability of platform economy.