The Promise of Platform Work

Companies operating digital platforms for individuals to hire out their skills and labour to businesses or consumers, such as Uber and Upwork, have experienced rapid growth in recent years and disrupted a range of sectors. Such “digital work/services platforms” range from ride-hailing to professional services. They are making available affordable services to consumers and offering companies and clients greater opportunities to access talent with the skills they need. These platforms are also providing flexible opportunities for earning income, helping many platform workers to achieve economic security and greater control over their working hours, develop skills and enjoy their work.

However, the rapid adoption of technology, innovation in business models and the diverse ways in which people work through platforms pose challenges for the rules and laws governing work. There is also ongoing debate on benefits and social protections for platform workers. Failure to find solutions to ensure good platform work would risk undermining the platform economy’s potential to grow responsibly and make an increasingly positive contribution in the new economy.

The Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society worked with leading digital work/service platforms, with advice from trade unions and independent experts, to collectively identify and commit to key principles to underpin good platform work, The Charter of Principles for Good Platform Work, published in January 2020. We also mapped the platform economy and the opportunities and challenges it poses for workers, in a white paper The Promise of Platform Work: Understanding the Ecosystem, also published in January.

Debates around benefits and social protections for platform workers have since been given added impetus by the COVID-19 crisis. We held a virtual workshop in April with leading platform companies, regulators, workers’ organisations, and independent experts to determine best practice by companies and governments to protect and support platform workers during the crisis. Our focus has now shifted to how to shape a quality new world of work not just for platform workers but for contingent workers more broadly as part of the Great Reset.

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