Working paper

Market power and artificial intelligence work on online labour markets

We investigate how labour demand and supply elasticities relate to an exogenous change in platform policy.

Publishing date
16 December 2021

The views are those of the authors and should not be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission. Frank Mueller-Langer gratefully acknowledges financial support from a research grant of the University of the Bundeswehr Munich.

We investigate three alternative but complementary indicators of market power on one of the largest online labour markets (OLMs) in Europe: (1) the elasticity of labour demand, (2) the elasticity of labour supply, and (3) the concentration of market shares. We explore how these indicators relate to an exogenous change in platform policy. In the middle of the observation period, the platform made it mandatory for employers to signal the rates they were willing to pay, as given by the level of experience required to perform a project: entry, intermediate or expert level. We find a positive labour supply elasticity ranging between 0.06 and 0.15, which is higher for expert-level projects. We also find that the labour demand elasticity increased while the labour supply elasticity decreased after the policy change. Based on this, we argue that market-designing platform providers can influence the labour demand and supply elasticities on OLMs with the terms and conditions they set for the platform. We also explore the demand for and supply of AI-related labour on the OLM under study. We provide evidence of a significantly higher demand for AI-related labour (ranging from +1.4 percent to +4.1 percent) and a significantly lower supply of AI-related labour (ranging from -6.8 percent to -1.6 percent) than for other types of labour. We also find that workers on AI projects receive 3.0 percent to 3.2 percent higher wages than workers on non-AI projects.

This working paper was produced within the project “Future of Work and Inclusive Growth in Europe“, with the financial support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

About the authors

  • Néstor Duch-Brown

  • Estrella Gomez-Herrera

    Estrella Gomez-Herrera is a Visiting Fellow at Bruegel and a Professor at the University of Balearic Islands. Previously, she worked as a research fellow at the European Commission. Her research is related to Digital Markets, Short-Term Rental, Digital Single Market or Artificial Intelligence, among others. She has published more than 20 papers on these topics on top academic journals. She has presented the results of her research at more than 30 national and international conferences, including the Paris Seminar on the Economy of Digitalization, NBER Summer Institute IT and Digitalization or CESIfo Summer Institute. She currently conducts research with co-authors from leading institutions such as Bocconi University, the Max Planck Institute, Télécom Paris, the Universities of Zurich, Minnesota, and Manchester and the European Commission. Finally, in the social and business sphere, she has contacted and maintained dialogue with the most important companies that provide digital laboru services, helping them to improve their business models.

  • Frank Mueller-Langer

  • Songül Tolan

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