Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2019-04-26

Commoditized Workers: Case Study Research on Labor Law Issues Arising from a Set of on-Demand/Gig Economy Platforms

Document type Article
Author Aloisi, Antonio
Journal Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal
Volume 37
Date 2015-2016
Pages 653-690

Abstract

In the framework of the so-called “on-demand/gig economy,” the number of on-demand companies matching labor supply and demand is on the rise. These schemes may enlarge opportunities for people willing to find a job or to top up their salaries. Despite the upside of creating new “peer marketplaces,” these platforms may also be used to circumvent employment regulation, by operating informally in traditionally regulated markets. The literature showed how, by 2009, millions of worker accounts have been generated within these frameworks. Productivity may be fostered but, at the same time, a new version of Taylorism is disseminated (i.e., the fragmentation of labor into hyper-temporary jobs – called microtasks – on a virtual or local assembly line), strengthened by globalization and computerization. All these intermediaries recruit freelance or casual workers who are labelled as independent contractors even though many indicators seem to reveal a disguised employment relationship. Uncertainty and insecurity are the price for extreme flexibility. A bulk of business risk is shifted to workers, and potential costs such as benefits or unemployment insurance are avoided. Minimum wages are often far from being reached.