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Research - 08.04.2019 klo 09.58

Digital platforms play an increasingly important role in finding, providing and organising work

Photo: Lehtikuva/Otto Steininger.

A recent study on the extent of platform employment shows that Finns are actively participating in the burgeoning internet economy. PAM proposes that legislation should be specified to protect the rights of employees.

Released last week, the report Digital Footprint: The Platformisation of Work in Europe - Factsheet for Finland discusses the role and use of digital technologies in the world of work.

In the survey conducted for the study, 8.2% of Finnish respondents said they do platform-based work through gig platforms such as Upwork, Uber and Freska at least once a week. A further 9.5% said they found work through digital platforms at least once a month. The respondents featured approximately 2,000 Finns aged between 18 and 65.

The study carried out by the University of Hertfordshire and Ipsos MORI, used the term “platform work” to refer to paid tasks found via a website or application accessed via a laptop, smartphone or other internet-connected device. Finnish examples in the service industry include the food delivery services Foodora and Wolt as well as Freska, which offers housekeeping services.

The report indicates that for Finns, work through digital platforms and applications is primarily done to provide additional income or to supplement other sources of income. Finns in all age groups seek and find work through many different applications in the platform economy and there were no significant geographical differences between users. Traditional job websites, such as Oikotie or Monster were not included in platform work. Similarly, the study excluded renting an apartment through Airbnb or selling goods online.

“The study shows that platform work has spread throughout Finland in many different forms. This challenges the traditional employment contract and changes the power relations between the parties of the contract, boosting the employer at the cost of the employee,” says Jaana Ylitalo, collective bargaining director at PAM.

More research on the platform economy is needed

Defining the concept of the platform economy is crucial to discuss these issues. This is surprisingly difficult, as the phenomenon encompasses different forms of employment, from administrative work done from home to mobile service duties. The recent report suggests that platform work is more widespread than indicated by a previous study by Statistics Finland, which describes it as a minor phenomenon. Maija Mattila, who wrote the report and works as project researcher at the Kalevi Sorsa Foundation, believes these differences stem from the different understandings of what the platform economy or platform work mean in each study. Thus far, there has been little Finnish research into platform-based work.

Concern over platform workers

PAM’s opinion is that work done or provided via digital platforms can offer flexible employment opportunities, but it can also generate insecurity in terms of the rights and legal status of those doing the work.

“Some of the platforms are reluctant to conclude formal employment contracts and claim that the work does not constitute an employer-employee relationship,” says Jaana Ylitalo.

“Current legislation already recognises workers in the platform economy as being in an employer-employee relationship. However, as the companies are actively trying to evade this definition, the matter should be made more specific in the legal text. PAM proposes that a presumption of an employer-employee relationship be incorporated into Finnish legislation,” says Ylitalo.

Digital Footprint: The Platformisation of Work in Europe – Factsheet for Finland

  • The study was commissioned by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies think tank, together with the Kalevi Sorsa Foundation, UNI Europa and Service Union United PAM.
  • It was carried out by the University of Hertfordshire (UK) and Ipsos MORI.
  • Approximately 2,000 Finns between the ages of 18 and 65 replied to the survey in December 2018.

Read the full report: Digital footprint: The platformisation of work in Europe