Growing individualisation and fragmentation in the digital economy: Study results reveal high level of crowd work in Switzerland

Thursday 14 September 2017

Research by the University of Hertfordshire and Ipsos MORI, in association with the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), UNI Europa and syndicom has revealed the true size of the Swiss ‘gig economy’ for the first time, using an innovative survey method.

  • 32.2% of survey respondents in Switzerland have tried to find work via online platforms
  • 10% of respondents said they have managed to find work in this way at least once a week
  • 14.4% of crowd workers are over 55, compared with 50.4% who are under 35 years old

The Swiss study is part of a wider research project on Europe’s digital economy, currently including the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, with Italy to follow. Similar to the other country study results, this one shows an overall trend whereby crowd workers do not, or cannot, restrict themselves to a single type of work. Instead, they offer several kinds of services, ranging from short task or click work to creative, IT or professional work, and from regular work in other people’s homes to driving or delivery work. A new group of workers, that tries to piece together a livelihood from a range of different tasks, is becoming visible.

The results show a significant share of crowd work in Switzerland: a third of Swiss (32.2% after weighting) tried to find work that is managed via platforms such as Upwork, Uber or Handy – with 18.2% of respondents succeeding in doing so. Men are more likely than women to find work this way: roughly 20.8% of men had found work via these platforms, while 15.6% of women had done so. The level of weekly and monthly crowd work is higher in Switzerland than in other Western European countries.

Dr Ernst Stetter, Secretary General of FEPS said: “The Internet gives weekly employment to one out of ten Swiss people and results show that online work can no longer be regarded only as an occasional occupation to top-up on other sources of income. As crowd work is structural, we need structured rules to make it just and socially sustainable.

Giorgio Pardini, Head of the ICT sector at syndicom, confirms: “Crowd work is really happening in Switzerland and will increase further. Crowd workers need to be protected as well: an accurate remuneration, entitlements to social security benefits, and collective labour rights have to be guaranteed. Platforms and companies using crowd work have to assume responsibility!

The platform economy offers most workers an occasional top-up in addition to another main job: for about 75% of the workers it represents less than half their income, but 11.7% said they earn all their income this way. Ursula Huws, Professor of Labour and Globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire, who designed the survey said: “These results show the extent to which digitalisation has extended into daily economic life, bringing to light a range of transactions which used to take place invisibly in the informal economy, using word-of-mouth methods for finding work and cash-in-hand payments. These informal activities are now merging with the new world of the gig economy that plays a significant part in the Swiss economy and the working lives of its citizens, either as a main source of income or a supplement to other earnings. The time has come to take a look at how it should be regulated. But this experimental study also highlights the need for more in-depth research on this new form of employment”.

It is a striking feature of this research that a significant proportion of crowd workers find work via different platforms. This new world of work is characterised by a growing individualisation and an increasingly fragmented nature of tasks carried out. Oliver Röthig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa said: “The gig economy opens the door to a new world of ‘just-in-time’ work. Employment relationships are fading and most gig workers often see themselves as ‘temporary workers’, even though they are not automatically assigned to this status. We need inclusive EU legal frameworks to ensure that workers get the respective protection that their status implies. And we need to ensure the workers’ right to unionise and to collectively bargain.”

 

To read the full factsheet on this survey, please click here.

 

Note to editors  

University of Hertfordshire, European think tank FEPS and European service workers’ union UNI Europa are collaborating on a research project to explore the scale and impact of the growth of crowd working, and provide a more comprehensive picture of the digitalised labour market across the European Union.

Results have been published so far on the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, with Italy to follow.

The Swiss survey was conducted in association with syndicom. In Switzerland, 2001 adults aged 16-70 were interviewed. Interviews took place between 3rd and 14th April 2017. Data are weighted by age within gender, region, working status, population density of respondent settlement, chief income earner of the household and household size to match the profile of the adult population in Switzerland.

Population estimates are derived according to 2015 population figures for adults aged 16-70 in Switzerland, estimated at 6.020.000. Survey percentages are grossed up as a proportion of this figure.

 

Media Contacts

Alain Bloedt – FEPS Communication Adviser

+32491568272 – alain.bloedt@feps-europa.eu

Eleanor Quinn – Communications Officer at UNI Europa

+3222345671 – eleanor.quinn@uniglobalunion.org

Giorgio Pardini – Head of the ICT sector at syndicom

+41792776613 – giorgio.pardini@syndicom.ch

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