Digital platforms for the employment of the future

08, July

By Carmen Sánchez-Silva The emergence of atypical online jobs that provide income for 2% of the population require ...

By Carmen Sánchez-Silva

The emergence of atypical online jobs that provide income for 2% of the population require an expansion of social rights.

We are not talking about the future of work. We are talking about the present of work. Freelancers, remote workers, on demand employees… the traditional way to organize work is dying and unconventional, independent jobs that generate intermittent income have become a reality due to the gig economy. In the European Union this type of work is growing faster than other forms of work. Back in 1995 it employed 23% of people aged 25 to 39 years old, while in 2016 the share grew to 32%. Therefore, by 2030 growth could be even greater, according to a survey developed by Ouishare, a non-profit organization that analyzes the impact of technology in society for Cotec.

Spain, a labour market that leads the phenomenon of temporary work (with the shorter contracts in Europe), can effortlessly (and has already started to) become one of the main markets for this form of work. Today, nine out of ten contracts are temporary, and four out of ten last less than a month. About 43% of new hires are fixed term or for shorter periods than normal.

The new profiles will not be linked to an eight hours working day as most permanent Spanish employees are. On the contrary, they will have several sources of income and inferior social protection levels, a fact that has led Ouishare to look into social protection formulas that should be created to protect these people and prevent the growing lack of protection partly caused by platforms such as Glovo, Uber or Deliveroo. Regulatory frameworks have yet to provide a solution, so platforms are being created to protect workers, either by creating specific insurances, systems to unite and represent people, or working and training tools to better defend themselves. “When labour continuity breaks down” says Albert Cañigueral, from Ouishare, “it has to be rebuilt, as Glovo or Deliveroo riders are doing, by organizing themselves to stand up for their rights and, who knows, even starting what shall become the guilds of the future”. But if we want to put a stop to the undeclared form that this new kind of employment is taking, we must provide rights that do not punish them, he adds.

Despite the fact that platforms that act as intermediaries for the supply and demand of this flexible work are growing, their use remains marginal. Only 1% to 3% of the workforce generates income through them. In Spain, 17% of the working age population obtain money from platforms at least once a week; it is one of the countries were this working model is growing the most, particularly in the southern region, where unemployment rates are very high, explains Cañigueral.

Truth be told, there are endless new operators in the market. They offer services that range from micro workers (online micro tasks platforms) to on demand workers such as the ones from Glovo, Cabify or MyPoppins; there are websites focused on blue collar staff, such as CornerJob, Wonolo or JobToday; or on freelancers and white collar workers such as UpWork, Freelancer o Wisar, and even more specialized such as TopTal, UpCounsel, Catalant, FieldEngineer; even PwC has its own platform of consultants: TalentExchange. The amalgam is huge.

And the thing is that there is progressively less employment and even less standard employment, says Luz Rodríguez, profesor of Labour Right at the University  of Castilla-La Mancha and collaborator at Cotec. This has an impact on the fact that not every platform provides undeclared jobs; in fact, the most active platforms are the ones that intermediate projects for specialized professionals who work when and as much as they want. That’s how Wisar works, a platform that manages 1,000 daily offers where price by the hour range from 15 to 200 Euros, according to the experience of the candidate, explains Sandra Arévalo, general director of this platform. Just like at Freelancer, the most demanded services are graphic design, translations, and programming, says Sebastián Siseles, its’ vice-president.

Nevertheless, Rodriguez believes that the main challenge is to make decisions regarding a social protection that protects every worker, regardless the type of contract they may have. The ILO is working on it, but Rodriguez believes that the European Union should also intervene to expand fundamental rights, such as healthcare at work, non-discrimination or the organization to protect atypical workers’ interests. “Let us generate rights that can be applied to everyone, instead of what the new labour conditions directive has done by excluding autonomous workers”, she explains.

Source: El País