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Platform work and gender inequality

Platform work economy offers flexibility but reinforces gender inequality

The platform work economy comes with great strengths. The ability to work where you want and how you want is a significant motivator for people who have grown tired of the 9-5 rigidity and seek more diversity in their career path. But reoccurring inequalities and stereotypes are reinforced in platform work. EU’s member states should create corresponding social protection in which platform workers can be included and benefit from, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) says in a report on platform work.

“Platform work broadly replicates the well-known gender inequalities found in the traditional labour market. For example, women platform workers work less intensively on labour platforms than men and dominate the provision of childcare and elderly care services, while a higher share of men platform workers engage in construction, software development or transportation type of services”, the EIGE report says.

“Platform work together with other new forms of employment are gaining ground in the European labour market. Although the share of women platform workers has been rising in recent years, they remain under-represented in platform work. Generally, platform workers tend to be young and highly educated.”

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The report says that conservative estimate show that platform work in Europe accounts for around 1.4 % of total employment (equivalent to about 4.7 million workers). On average these workers spend at least 20 hours a week working on platforms and receive at least 20 % of their income via platforms. 

Other analyses define the scale of platform work in Europe in much broader terms suggesting that the number of workers who have ever engaged in platform work, irrespective of their level of engagement, is about 28 million people. Overall, there are more men platform workers. Platform workers tend to be young and highly educated. 

“However, evidence suggests that the share of women platform workers has been rising in recent years, a trend that is replicating developments in the broader labour market where 2 out of 3 net new jobs in the EU over the last two decades have been taken by women”.

The report says young women (aged 16–24) are 9 % more likely than young men to take part in platform work to gain income while women aged 25 and older are more likely than men to engage in platform work in search of a better work-life balance.

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“There are stark differences in the underlying motivations between women and men to engage in platform work. Women have higher odds of engaging in platform work in order to gain an additional income as it offers more flexibility to combine work with household tasks or family commitments.”
“Men’s motivations are more often driven by the opportunities provided by platforms to work globally and expand their client base to different cities or countries.”

“Given the significance of platform work in today’s labour market, it is important to understand its challenges and opportunities so that everyone has equal access to the benefits”, EIGE says.

The organisation says we need extend working hour regulations and work-life balance measures specified on platform work, and promote an equal sharing of care responsibilities between women and men.

The legal uncertainties in the employment status of platform workers must be addressed to combat disguised employment, EIGE says.

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