Motivations for Labour Provision on Digital Platforms in Europe: Examining the Differences Between Only Gigers and Gigers and Renters

Motivations for Labour Provision on Digital Platforms in Europe: Examining the Differences Between Only Gigers and Gigers and Renters

Joan Torrent-Sellens (Open University of Catalunya, Spain), Pilar Ficapal-Cusí (Open University of Catalunya, Spain), and Myriam Ertz (LaboNFC, University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7545-1.ch004
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Research on the gig economy has rarely addressed the study on the motivations for the provision of labour services on digital platforms. Through a sample of 3,619 gigers in Europe, obtained from the COLLEM research, results have been obtained for labour providers (only gigers) and for labour and capital use providers (gigers and renters). The valuation of labour, being an internal resource of the gigers, has a great set of economic foundations, working conditions, and labour relations. On the other hand, the valuation of labour and capital uses is more focused on their economic and labour relations fundamentals, notably reducing the role of working conditions. These motivations suggest different platform strategies and public employment policies for both groups. While the promotion of the general job quality would also encourage the gig-job quality, the promotion of the labour and capital uses valuation requires specific actions on the platform operations.
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During the last decades, economic globalization and the digital revolution have been profoundly and structurally transforming employment and labor relations (Martínez-Cerdá et al., 2020). Progressively, homogeneous and routine jobs; the industrial organization of work: atomization, hierarchy, and lack of autonomy in the workplace; stable lifetime employment in the same firm or organization; separate periods of training, employment, and retirement; only fixed rewards, and a framework of labor relations, with a social contract that exchanges homogeneous hours of work and fixed wages for productivity, are running out (Díaz-Chao et al., 2016). In substitution to traditional forms of employment, new and alternative forms of work, such as part-time, on-demand, or occasional employment, are being consolidated (Katz & Krueger, 2019).

From a technological perspective and like any other wave of disruptive innovation, digital-based technologies have generated a wide range of positive and negative effects on employment (Ballestar et al., 2020). In this sense, research on the effects of technology on employment has reached two basic consensuses (Vivarelli & Pianta, 2000). An initial agreement is based on the idea that the first effect of technology on employment is a skills bias. Empirically, the thesis of skill-biased technological change has been extensively verified (Card & DiNardo, 2002; Moore & Ranjan, 2005). According to this approach, the process of technological innovation generated, or that can only be used, by more trained workers with better skills and flexible organizations open to change, would explain the improvements in employment.

On the other hand, technological innovation would also be linked to increases in unemployment, falls in wages or the deterioration of the working conditions of employees with less training and skills, and more rigid organizational schemes (Antonelli & Fassio, 2014). In this sense, the second consensus establishes that the workers' skills, capabilities, and competencies, the firms' strategic, organizational and productive models; managerial decisions; labor relations; cultural and institutional settings; and public policies are fundamental for explaining the results of technology on employment. The impact of technology on employment can only be understood from its complex interaction with the educational, economic, social, political, and cultural system where it is applied (Autor et al., 2003).

In recent years, and leaning with the first wave of change related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the non-interactive Internet (Internet 1.0), a new phase of disruptive technological change has been generated. This new phase of digitization began with the appearance of social networks (Web 2.0) that exponentially increased the capacity for interaction and sharing of audio-visual material between people (Caroll & Romano, 2011). More recently, it has been confirmed that we would be at the beginning of a new general-purpose technological wave (so-called the fourth industrial revolution), which reinforces and deepens the first waves of digitization (Torrent-Sellens, 2015). Robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning, cloud computing, big data, 3D printing, Internet of things or social networks, and digital platforms, among others, are beginning to show signs of construction of a new interconnected technological base, a new technical-economic paradigm, that will be interrelated with social and cultural changes of unprecedented magnitude (Torrent-Sellens, 2019; Trajtenberg, 2018). This new digitization wave, which will strongly materialize in the coming years (Frey & Osborne, 2017; Pratt, 2015), has fundamental implications in explaining productivity and the structure of employment, which has garnered renewed interest from researchers in the field (Autor, 2015; Camiña et al., 2020).

Therefore, a new digital wave appeared. In the new forms of digitization, labor markets tend to polarize and relocate skills, tasks, occupations, and jobs favoring workers and the highest and lowest incomes in the employment structure. This dynamic harms workers and the average income of the occupational structure (Frey & Osborne, 2017). This general trend, which is also related to a broad set of economic (globalization), social (immigration), institutional (international political relations), and political (crisis of the welfare state) factors, has intensely accelerated in recent years. In fact, it has been found that, unlike other technological waves, the current phase of digitization would be less likely to create employment and would have a greater tendency to displace it instead (Acemoglu & Restrepo, 2018; Autor & Salomons, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Alternative Work: All those unusual forms of employment. It refers especially to temporary or occasional employment.

Gig Economy: Refers to the exchange of sporadic or temporary jobs organized by tasks. In this economy, interested firms (also individuals) call in a multitude of providers (gigers), which are more or fewer professionals, and acquire their labor services. In most cases, the hiring of tasks in the gig economy has been done in less regulated contexts, especially outside the conditions of security and employment protection that are offered within firms.

Digital Platform (Economics): Digital network for the connection of economic agents and for the coordination of all types of exchanges.

Giger/Renter: Individual who provides labor services and other non-labor goods and services through digital platforms. This provision of products, services, and jobs can be done directly, to a firm or another person, or indirectly through a mediator.

Digitization: Digital transformation process. It refers to the growing and massive use by individuals and firms of all digital technologies. Digitization includes both the use of first-wave digital technologies, such as ICT, Internet, or electronic commerce, as well as new-wave digital technologies, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, social networks, big data, Internet of things, or digital platforms, among others.

Digital Platform (Labour or Employment): Digital networks for the exchange and coordination of employment tasks. They fulfill three basic functions: 1) to match the supply and demand for job tasks; 2) to generate a range of tools and services that allow the delivery of tasks in exchange for income or rewards; and 3) to establish rules and coordination mechanisms through agreements and terms of service.

Collaborative Economy: The set of resource circulation systems that enable consumers to both obtain and provide, temporarily or permanently, valuable resources or services through direct interaction with other consumers or through a mediator.

Giger: Individuals who provide labor services through digital platforms directly, to a firm or other individual, or indirectly through a mediator.

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