Why is the new directive on platform work important?

Publishing date
26 June 2023
Duygu Güner
Picture of a stack of newspapers
Picture of the title of the 22/06/2023 newsletter with Duygu Guner

Individuals providing goods and services to clients or customers through digital platforms are referred to as platform workers. Platform work has been heavily criticised as workers are neither covered by unemployment benefit systems nor protected by social safety nets. Those are not false accusations given that 55% of platform workers earn less than the net hourly minimum wage and 41% of their working time is unpaid.

The employment base of the platform economy expanded significantly during the pandemic, exposing the flaws of its structure to a wider audience. In 2022, over 28 million people were working for digital platforms, but only 7% of platform workers were classified as employees.  About 5 million people were wrongly classified as self-employed when they should have been considered employees.

Misclassification is one of the main motivations behind the current proposal which introduces a two-fold improvement. First, the proposal develops a criterion to assess the correct employment status of platform workers. Second, it establishes rules on the use of AI in the workplace. It tries to ensure a balance between enabling workers to enjoy the flexibility of platform work and the social protections needed for a fair labour market. 

However, the proposed directive does little to improve the rights of the self-employed beyond an attempt to regulate algorithmic management. EU labour markets are designed around fulltime employment and the proposal simply tries to fit platform work into an existing framework.

The number of platform workers is expected to reach 43 million by 2025 in an asymmetric expansion and the current proposal might not be relevant for the 15 million new workers expected to enter the platform economy in the next two years. The impact of technology on labour markets must be explored further to ensure that the digital economy works for everyone everywhere.


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About the authors

  • Duygu Güner

    Duygu joined Bruegel in June 2022 as part of the Future of Work and Inclusive Growth team.

    She is an applied economist, and her research mainly focuses on structural labour markets issues such as barriers to labour force participation, gender gaps, informality, skill shortages and unemployment.

    Before joining Bruegel, she has been actively involved in research for more than 10 years in a diverse setting. She participated in multiple projects for various institutions including JRC-Seville, the World Bank, the International Labour Organization, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Turkey.

    She holds an MA in Economics and a BSc in Management Engineering from Istanbul Technical University (Turkey). Currently, she is finalising a PhD in Economics at KU Leuven.

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