The platform economy gigeconomy in English it goes beyond Glovo or Uber delivery. It extends each time to more and more trades, and there are countless digital platforms that offer micro-jobs on the Internet. In fact, maybe you are one of them and you don’t even know it.
Pedro Gutiérrez is 29 years old and works on the platform Upwork since 2017. She started translating and writing texts for websites, now she is working on a project of writing popular science books for young people.
First, according to Business Insider SpainIt had a lot of trouble getting started. As his profile was new to the platform, companies did not choose him. Over time he managed to get a certain reputation and now now you can even choose the jobs you do.
“When I arrived, there was room for growth. But you start out doing pretty precarious jobs for little money. Gradually, over time, you build a reputation and get more opinions, and there comes a time when you can choose which job to keep based on how much money they pay you and how much effort you have to put into it,” he says.
“During those years, I had to combine that with other jobs,” he adds. “At the end of the day, there are a lot of people offering the type of work that I do, and it’s often hard to find people who pay well.”
Today, technology has enabled the emergence of a new class of digital workers like Pedro. A worker who owns his own schedule and place of work, with a flexible life without ties, but very precarious in a market where competition is global and uncertainty reigns.
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More than 160 million people worldwide work for online job platforms, doing everything from small tasks like tagging data and conducting surveys to more professional jobs like designing a website. .
the human cloud
these workers independent are part of what the economist Klaus Schwab called in his time “the human cloud”, in reference to “a virtual cloud of potential workers located anywhere.”
For workers, working in the cloud has fewer barriers to entry than conventional employment. For companies, it is generally less expensive to use an online work platform than to hire a permanent worker directly.
Some of the best-known microtasking platforms are Upwork, Amazon Mechanical Turk, or Fiverr. In them you can find jobs of all kinds, such as moderating content on social networks or manually training an artificial intelligence.
However, although these jobs are a source of income for many people, they lead to serious problems of precariousness and very poor working conditions for workers, according to the latest study by the Fairwork Digital Work Observatory, which depends on l University of Oxford and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
In the gigeconomy workers lose
After studying the 15 work platforms independent largest in the world, the conclusion reached in the latest report Fairwork Cloudwork 2022 is clear: in the gigeconomy workers lose and labor rights are diluted.
“For nearly all of the platforms studied in this report, we were unable to find policies that ensured that all workers earned at least the local minimum wage, that contracts were fair and transparent, and that they did not ‘not force workers to waive their rights, and that workers be informed in advance of the use that would be made of their data,’ indicates the study, signed by a dozen experts in digital work.
In its report, Fairwork sets out 5 principles to assign a score from 0 to 10 regarding decent working conditions on platforms. Of the 15 platforms analyzed, the highest scored a 7 (Prolific), the next highest scored a 5 (Jovoto) and Workana a 4. None of the others scored more than 3 out of 10, among which are the most popular, such as Upwork, Amazon and Fiverr.
The 5 principles for establishing these scores are: decent wages, decent working conditions, fair contracts, fair management and fair worker representation.
Except 3 platforms, all fail to adhere to these principles.
The Fairwork report points out that unpaid work accounts for a very large share of the time workers spend online, which is common in the world of freelancers, where they raise bills and gain new clients in their hard but invisible work. .
On average, according to the Fairwork researchers’ analysis, workers on these platforms spent more than 8.5 hours per week —a full day of work— do unpaid workwhether searching for clients or tasks, applying for jobs, creating online profiles, submitting jobs to competitions or taking qualification tests.
Moreover, one of the main challenges facing these workers is isolation and atomization, the study points out. In other words, not having a network of colleagues or professionals in the same sector on which to rely or from whom they can demand improvements in their working conditions.
Although this is starting to change and countless initiatives have already emerged from labor groups and trade unions specializing in digital freelancers who collectively seek to protect and defend their rights.
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For Pedro Gutierrez loneliness and depending on yourself for everything is the hardest part of this way of working. “In general, working on these platforms and working as independent it’s something quite lonely, which at some point can weigh a little,” he says.
“You are also very alone in the management part, and everything depends on you”, he adds. “It’s a pretty big pressure you can feel, especially if you need the money.”
“The main benefit is that it allows me to decide when I work, how I work and who I work for,” he says. “But it’s a bit of a precarious way of working, marked by uncertainty. Especially in the beginning, if that’s your only source of income, you’re going to be very fair because you don’t have a fixed income or a regular clientele.” he concludes.
The future of work in Europe
The debate about the future of work is still open and regulators around the world are slowly starting to take sides. In Spain, it materialized in the pioneering law riderand in December the European Commission signed a still-open proposal for a directive in the halls of the European Parliament that plans to be more ambitious and will regulate around 5.5 million people.
According to the Commission’s own calculations, currently in the EU, more than 28 million people work via digital platforms and that number is expected to reach 43 million by 2025.