ETUI "Internet and Platform Work Survey" highlights the need for decent work

Posted on Friday, 4 March 2022
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The recent European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) Internet and Platform Work survey gathered information from 14 EU countries, one of which was Ireland, about the number of people who use the internet and digital labour platforms as a source of income. The Report gathers information about who they are, what they do, how often they work and how much they earn.


In 2021, almost 50 millions Europeans earned income by using the internet or a digital platform. The Report gathered data on forms of work that “ provided digitally-mediated services through online platforms, apps or websites on a freelance basis, sold products online (apart from second hand belongings) or rented accommodation online”. Jobs such as "remote clickwork" which involves performing short tasks on an online device on a freelance basis such as data entry, transcribing or completing paid online surveys accounts for 10 million people across the EU. The smallest number (1.5 million) relates to transport and delivery which tends to be the job most associated with platform work.

Internet and platform work was found to be an add on to offline work and not a replacement for it. Platform workers reported working about 10 hours a week, regardless of any other form of employment. Wages varied between 8 euro an hour for delivery work and 15 euro for professional remote work. For most of the platform workers (85 per cent), this form of work provided half or less of their annual income. A small number rely solely on platform work for their entire income, 7.5 per cent of remote professional workers, 7 per cent of ‘on-location’* workers and 11 per cent of drivers.

The Report shows though that these types of jobs resulted in high staff turnover, short hour jobs and delivered low income levels and that the “findings do not support optimistic expectations that the platform economy could offer solutions to people who do not have or are unable to get jobs in the traditional economy. It is mostly workers with precarious offline jobs who engage in online labour markets, and they do not stay there very long.” Many platform workers moved in and out of this type of work very quickly.


Ireland had the second highest percentage of respondents reporting platform work within the previous 12 months and had a higher than average intensity. Also lower skilled tasks were more common in Ireland with transport and delivery the most commonly reported for Ireland with these workers engaged in this form of work on at least a monthly basis.. On-location platform work was most commonly found in Ireland.

The Report notes that “While there is an expected pattern of longer hours associated with higher earnings in platform work, this is less evident in Germany and Ireland. In these two countries, the share of workers for whom platform work is a main source of income is much higher than the share that performs this work for more than 20 hours per week. This indicates a relatively higher economic dependency on platform work in Germany and Ireland but might also reflect higher hourly earnings…….Interestingly, earnings from platform work seem to differ somewhat less between countries, meaning they are relatively lower in the higher-paying countries”.

A cause for concern is that the report notes “Results show that digital labour markets in the EU are considerable in size and that digital labour platforms represent only a small fraction of this market, suggesting a large potential for their future expansion. More importantly, however, we find that income in this type of work is very low and it would position a worker who relied exclusively on them below the poverty line.


Meaningful Work

Social Justice Ireland has proposed a policy framework for a new Social Contract that calls for decent jobs as part of a Vibrant Economy. Every person in society should have the right to contribute to that society. Part of this means that worthwhile employment should be a genuine option for everyone who seeks it. Jobs should provide decent working conditions and pay a wage that allows employees to achieve a decent standard of living. Recent decades have seen a gradual erosion in the quality and security of employment, not just in Ireland but across the developed world.

  • We must increase the minimum wage to the level of the Living Wage.

Around 120,000 workers in Ireland earn the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or less, and up to twice that many again earn below the Living Wage – the rate a single person working fulltime must earn to achieve a minimum socially acceptable standard of living.

  • We must strengthen and enforce legislation to tackle job precarity and low pay.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of low-paid employment in the OECD; almost 6 times the rate of Belgium, which is the best performer, and 2nd worst behind only the United States. We must address this from both a societal and an economic standpoint. Providing a living wage would also have a positive economic multiplier effect.

  • We must develop flexible working initiatives to support remote working and increased participation for people with disabilities.

COVID-19 has changed the nature of work in Ireland. Remote and flexible working has become the norm for many workers who are not on the ‘front line’. While this has presented challenges, particularly for those juggling education and caring responsibilities, it has also presented the opportunity to test new ways to work. The Remote Work in Ireland – Future Jobs 2019 report acknowledges the importance of providing flexible alternatives from the point of view of sustainability, and increasing labour market participation among women and people with disabilities. The past number of months has proven that many of these alternatives already exist. These must now become streamlined to facilitate this broadening of the labour force participation.

  • We must resource the up-skilling of those who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment.

In as much as COVID-19 has highlighted ‘essential work’, it has also brought into relief the precarity of certain types of employment, particularly work undertaken by younger workers. We must also begin a Just Transition to more sustainable employment in the context of environmental protection and globalisation. Through a process of employerled education and training initiatives, workers will be more adaptable and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) more sustainable through the retention of a skilled labour force.

  • We must invest in Lifelong Learning as part of a human capital investment strategy.

Lifelong learning is essential to ensure Ireland can meet the challenges that automation and adaptation pose to the future of work. While Ireland’s lifelong learning participation rate is slowly improving (it was 13 per cent in 2019) those engaged in lifelong learning are more likely to be professionals rather than those with lower skills. Less than half of the adult population has at least basic digital skills and only 28 per cent of people have digital skills above a basic level. COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated how core this capacity is to working life and the urgency of addressing this deficit.


*On-location work (work found through an online platform, app or website done at a client’s home or another location away from your home, for instance handyman work, cleaning, beauty treatment or childminding).