This article was authored by Menno Bart, Sr Mgr Group Public Affairs at the Adecco Group, and Marine Marty, Public Affairs Intern at the Adecco Group. It was first published here.


The way that people find work has fundamentally shifted in recent years. As a result of the digital revolution, fueled in part by the 2008 global financial recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have been able to find new and different jobs in new and different ways.


But it is not just the method of finding work that has shifted. Workers’ preferences have also changed. More than ever, workers are looking for alternative forms of performing work. This change signals the end of the full-time, open-ended work contract as the norm — as far as it ever was.


Although it is not the first or only alternative form of organizing work, for many people, platform work is certainly the most visible. As preference for full-time positions decreases, workers have begun to consider alternative arrangements. Together with increasing agility required throughout the labour market, this means the emergence of ‘crowd work’, ‘gig work’, and other forms of often on-demand labour. Digital platform work has increased five-fold in the last decade, with around 11% of the EU workforce saying that they have already provided services through a platform.


We believe much of the discussion about flexibility and security is overlooking an important alternative: Agency Work. In this article, we will explore to which extent this well-regulated alternative can be part of the solution to the platform work conundrum.



Understanding platform work



The first digital work platforms emerged in the mid-1990s, and growth in the sector has only accelerated from the mid-2000s onwards, driven by faster internet speeds and the development of smart devices.


How does it work? The platform model works by enabling individuals to provide specific services, organised through a digital platform that connects them directly with clients. This could be a location-based app that allocates jobs, such as food delivery or domestic services, or web-based platforms for outsourcing IT work or other higher skill jobs, like Upwork or Freelancer.


Platform work can be defined by the following characteristics:


  • Paid work is organised through an online platform
  • Three parties are involved: the online platform, the client, and the worker
  • Often, the aim is to carry out specific tasks or solve specific problems
  • The work is contracted out
  • Services are provided on demand


The rapid growth of the platform economy gives testament of the value it brings, to both clients and workers, for example by offering access to work for people who otherwise could not integrate into the labour market for a variety of reasons. But platform work has also attracted considerable controversy.


Platform companies in many countries have been subject to lawsuits, notably over workers’ employment status. It has been argued that workers providing services through platforms were unjustly considered as self-employed, leading to them being denied their right to the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay, and a secure employment contract. To read the full article, head to Reshaping Work here.