Precarious work in the on-line economy. A study on digital workers in Belgium and the Netherlands.
This is the first study exploring the relation between precarious work and the platform economy in Belgium and the Netherlands. It focuses on the work reality of ‘digital workers’ (i.e. platform workers, gig workers, freelancers like bloggers), who are mostly self-employed and increasingly required to perform uncompensated (or unpaid) work (e.g. creating and updating online profiles to establish a reputation, doing preparatory work to compete for tasks). Engaging in unpaid work is a manifestation of labour market uncertainty that has been greatly exacerbated by the rise of the online economy, and which therefore must be theoretically and empirically studied when understanding precarity in digital work. Hence, to investigate the precarious nature of digital work, the project uses an original sequential mixed methods research design consisting of three interlinked steps. First, following a grounded theory rationale, we will carry out biographical interviews with digital workers in selected countries. Second, based on the gathered ‘thick’ data, a comprehensive grounded theory on precariousness in digital work will be developed. Third, and based on the collected data and the newly developed theory, a survey on digital work is designed and launched as online survey in Belgium and the Netherlands. Overall, the project will generate unique qualitative and quantitative data to understand the reality of digital work, which is key for developing adequate and timely policy responses.