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Platform Labour in Urban Spaces: Fairness, Welfare, Development

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PLUS (Platform Labour in Urban Spaces: Fairness, Welfare, Development)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

PLUS aims to address the main features of the platform economy’s impact on work, welfare and social protection through a ground-breaking trans-urban approach. The project focuses on this specific and meaningful segment of the so-called Industry 4.0 revolution because it summarizes all main opportunities and challenges for the future of work, social innovation and a fair growth. The platform economy, indeed, is emerging as a strategic sector in terms of application of digital technologies, business investments and new jobs. The project’s goal is to sketch a picture of such transformations proposing an innovative approach that identifies urban dimension as fundamental stage for measuring and evaluating social and economic impact of these innovations and for building more inclusive policies. In this way, PLUS will contribute to fill a gap both in understanding and tackling challenges posed by digitization of labour. PLUS frames a ground-breaking grid of investigation that intertwines four disruptive platforms (AirBnb, Deliveroo, Helpling and Uber) and seven European cities (Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Lisbon, London, Paris, Tallinn). A multi-disciplinary legal, socio-economic, political, historical approach articulated in desk analysis, field research (both qualitative and quantitative), and action research (based on communities of practice, social laboratories and pilots-cases) will be adopted in order to foster new alternative scenarios that can contribute to promote social protection, economic development and well-being in digital labour. The project valorizes the role that different stakeholders could play in promoting and balancing such transformations. A bottom-up approach and techniques of co-creation will be adopted to produce outputs directly impacting on policymaking, market and welfare: innovative typologies of contracts, a Chart for digital workers' rights, taxation and regulation guidelines, social enterprise pilots and educational patterns for new skills.
PLUS will go beyond the state of the art by providing an integrated view of the impact of the platform economy on the lives of citizens in European cities, encompassing not only the implications for platform workers and their customers but also the workers and users in other service sectors. The ambition is to sketch a meaningful picture of ongoing socio-economic transformations that could summarise the main opportunities and challenges.
These specific goals could be placed as key-contributions into a broader European strategy capable to manage ongoing economic transformations and to rethink welfare and wellness. PLUS meaningfully bridges the European agenda for the collaborative economy and the European Pillar of Social Rights with local dimension where platforms effectively impact.
PLUS project acts on three main levels: a theoretical framework of platform economy in legal, historical and economic terms; a field work research on platform labour in terms of work organization, skills and social protections; activities of actions research to test pilot-cases, training programmes and regulatory policies.
During the first reporting period we triggered all three levels, but we focused mainly on the first one as the goal has been to elaborate a common perspective and vocabulary for all the projects tasks. We realized all the investigation on the legal conditions for platforms operation producing a multi-level framework including European, national and local legislation; we achieved a definition of a platform business model through the analysis of a large set of existing companies and through the comparison with more cooperative approaches; we examined in depth the genealogy of such business model connecting this with previous industrial revolutions and urban transformations.
At the same time, we set up the field work and triggered the empirical research. After a theoretical inquiry on the existing literature review, we focused on a background research involving stakeholders – unionists, workers, managers, policymakers – immediately in the project through interviews on the impact of platform economy at city level. These outputs allowed us to elaborate a grid of investigation that now all partners involved in case-study investigation are applying in a massive field research finalized to collect semi-structured interviews with platform workers. Furthermore, we worked on the analysis of larger urban impact of platform economy through the assemblage of a wide set of secondary data.
Even if the action-research is planned to start only in the second reporting period, we already started to set up the organization of communities of practices finalized to the production of a Massive Open Online Course for platform workers. At the same time, we are working to improve and optimize stakeholders’ involvement in project activities like Social Policy Labs.
PLUS is contributing to move the debate on platform economy forward the state of art. First of all, we worked on the definition of a clearer lexicon for the ongoing transformation, highlighting how platforms could not be reduced only to a firm approach but integrating this vision with workers’ perspective. Our plan is to analyze in depth all the potential implications for a more democratic decision-making process in this business model, so to experiment innovative forms of labour organization and workers rights into the pilot cases. Next year we will better define potentialities and limits of platform cooperativism.
Furthermore, we will work on the production of a Massive Open Online Course to help workers and managers to better approach their job in terms of labour rights, welfare and fairness. The MOOC will be realized with the active contribution of all stakeholders in the definition of the course’ contents.
The intensive field work we are carrying on is contributing to better understand the perspective of different actors involved into platform economy. At the moment, there are several studies on such sector but PLUS will improve the debate focusing on 4 disrupting platforms that represent landmarks for all the other companies. We aim to achieve a solid vision of all the different stakeholders’ perspectives and goals in order to facilitate a social dialogue among them. We will use this theoretical progress to elaborate potential policies of local and European regulation and taxation in order to share advantages and mitigate risks and imbalances.