The digital revolution is continuously giving rise to new ways of working via digital platforms (Huws, 2015), which predominantly young people engage in (Garben, 2017; Popescu et al., 2018). These new forms of work challenge our understanding of work, as well as, how work is traditionnally organised (Coyle, 2017; Huws, 2015; Ilsøe, 2017). A key concept for these new developments is the platform economy, which is a term for various business models in which commercial plat-forms act as intermediaries between workers and customers (Ilsøe & Madsen, 2017; Rasmussen et al., 2017). Similarly, social media platforms create opportunities for new types of work (Slots- og Kulturstyrelsen, 2018).
The main purpose of the project has been to create knowledge about young people's work in the new digital labour markets, these young people's working environment, and to investigate what instruments can target the challenges these young people face. We have been interested in investigating paid employment among young people under age 30, mediated by digital technologies, and is performed on or through digital platforms or markets. The project is the first of its kind in Den-mark. The results are based on in-depth interviews with 20 young people under 30, who work as platform workers via digital labour platforms, gamers, YouTubers, bloggers and digital nomads.
The project has been conducted as a collaborative project with inspiration from the Canadian Knowledge-Transfer-Exchange Model (KTE model) (Van Eerd, 2017) and the research method 'research circles’ (Persson, 2009). Thus, all phases of the project have been developed in close dialogue with practitioners and through six workshops, in which we collaborated with stake-holders within the new digital labour markets.
The project contributes with insight into what working environment problems particularly derive from the digital aspect of the work and the new organisation of work via the digital platforms. The insights can be summarised in the following points:
• The work in the digital labour markets challenge the traditional organisation of work, as there is often neither an employer nor an employee in a traditional sense. Workers are considered and treated as self-employed. The work is characterised by being highly indivi-dualised and deregulated.
• Work via digital platforms thus challenge the traditional two-sided employment relation-ship between an employer and employee; the employment relationship is instead consti-tuted by 3 to 5 actors, of which at least one is a digital platform. Thus, the employment relationship is 3- to 5-sided.
• Due to the opaqueness in these employment relations the young workers often lack know-ledge of the responsibility which is delegated to them as self-employed. (In general, and in relation to the working environment).
• Digital labour platforms use algorithms to match, rank, and sort jobs and workers. In this way, the labour platforms have delegated management from humans to algorithms. The algorithmic control mechanisms are often experienced as non-transparent by the young workers. Furthermore, our analysis shows that the platforms’ control mechanisms affect the workers’ ‘job control’ and ‘schedule control’ (Wheatley, 2017). From occupational health and safety research, it is well-known that lack of control and autonomy in the work can have a negative impact the working environment.
• Young people with platform work receive no or very limited training and introduction.
• The young people particularly tell about psychosocial working environment issues, such as blurring of boundaries between work and private life and the lack of colleagues.
• Platform work requires a great level of emotional labour (Hochschild, 2012), which in some cases can be experienced as stressful. Within this, the work requires special efforts to uphold a boundary between the professional self and the private self.
• The decisive factor in how young people relate to their digitally mediated work, is the stage of their transition process into the labour market.
One of the main results of the project is the development of a categorisation of young people employed in the digital labour markets. The categorisation provides an overview of the different forms of work in the new digital labour markets that the young people in our data material participate in. The categories provide insights into how the work integrates in the young people's life situation; how young people relate to their work and working environment; as well as, what working environment problems they experience in the different forms of work in the digital labour market. The categories are:
1. Student worker via digital labour platforms
2. Sabbatical year worker via digital labour platforms
3. Young worker setting off as self-employed on the labour market via digital labour platforms
4. Young people with limited success on social media platforms
5. Extremely successful young people with a social media brand
6. Young people with a media platform as a professionalised hobby.
On a general level, the categorisation shows that the work in the digital labour markets plays a very different role in the lives of young people and that the young people have different time perspectives in the work. The work in the digital labour markets is special precisely because it can be carried out while the young people are under education, or while they have other forms of paid employment. The categorisation reflects that age is not always a decisive factor in how young people relate to their digitally mediated work, but instead it is the stage of their transition process into the labour market, that must be regarded as the decisive factor.
For all the digitally mediated forms of work which the young workers engage in, the physical working environment depends primarily on the nature of the work, and is unaffiliated with the digital mediation of the tasks. Especially in relation to strain injuries and the risk of accidents it is critical whether the work is done online or offline. The tasks that young people obtain through the digital labour platforms are, for example, cleaning, childcare, copywriting or translation work. The work is often done in the same way as if the young person was employed by an employer within a traditional labour organisation. Therefore, workers are also exposed to the same health and safety risks that we know from traditional payroll labour.
However, the risk of work-related accidents and injuries might be more prevalent in platform work due to the temporary and task defined nature of the work which is known to correlate with the risk of injuries (Garben, 2017). In addition, the digital dimension of the work creates a number of risks that are added to these well-known risks. These risks are described in the individual tables in the result section of the report. Here the reader also finds six characters of young workers who work in different areas of the digital labour market, which exemplifies the six categories. Across the categories we see that the young workers tell about limited opportunities for long-term planning, which is experienced as stressful by some workers. While many of the young people who work on different forms of social media platforms tell about a considerable risk of harassment and threats from followers. The qualitative data material are comprised of 20 interviews and materials from the collaborative research process and exchanges with stakeholders in the platform economy, and has provided the basis for mapping types of digital work as well as the types of risk and mechanisms associated with these types of work. However, it is not possible to say anything about how widespread the identified occupational health and safety problems are among this group of workers. We hope to be able to map this knowledge in the future with the developed questionnaire on working environment and health among employees on digital platforms.
On several occasions during the project’s collaborative research process, the stakeholder discussed the consequences of the current working environment organisation that lacks the ability to accommodate atypical forms of employment. This means that new business models and forms of employments, at best, challenge the existing Danish Working Environment Act, and, at worst, have the consequence that workers on digital labour platforms in many cases are excluded, and there-fore have limited benefits from the resources and structures provided by the working environment system.
The report presents a number of recommendations developed by the stakeholders who participated in the collaborative research process and additional recommendations from the project's researchers. Recommendations include information and advice to young people about the conditions that apply to the digital platforms, as well as the responsibilities delegated to them under current legislation. In addition, the recommendations cover suggestions on how digital platforms may incorporate occupational health and safety considerations into the design of the platforms.