The iLabour project is premised on the idea that a fundamental change is taking place in labour markets, or the social, technical, and institutional arrangements through which work and earnings are allocated in society. Previously these arrangements were shaped and enforced through processes of legislation, collective bargaining, and local negotiation. Today, as part of the ongoing digitization of almost every aspect of society, these arrangements are increasingly being shaped and constrained by private software systems that mediate between workers and employers. The objective of the project is to understand the social and policy implications of this momentous shift in labour markets.
The project will study online labour markets (OLMs), also referred to as online work platforms, online staffing platforms, and crowdsourcing marketplaces, forming part of the so-called “platform economy” and “sharing economy”. It will address questions about the size and growth of these markets, the kinds of rules that they embody, the politics and processes through which these rules are shaped, and the ways in which traditional labour market organizations as well as novel worker initiatives succeed or fail in influencing their rules. It will also ask what kind of an economy OLMs contribute towards – a global race to the bottom, a playful economy of moonlighters, or a network economy of individual entrepreneurs? The project will tackle these questions through an ambitious programme of conventional social research and innovative data science methods, on virtual as well as physical research sites around the world.
This work is suported by a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.
Labour markets are in the midst of a dramatic transformation. Standard employment is increasingly supplemented and substituted by temporary gig work mediated by online platforms. The iLabour research project at the Oxford Internet Institute examines the social, organizational, and policy implications of this shift.
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