Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 February 2022
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PHENOMENON: QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DATA
It is difficult in Italy to quantify the exact number of ‘platform workers’, meaning by that the people who perform work, generally of brief or very brief duration (a gig task or gig work) for a beneficiary ‘via’ digital infrastructures consisting of a website or an app on a mobile device (typically a smartphone).
The broad category of platform workers thus includes all those people who, after interacting with the beneficiary of the service through the platform, provide their work – either entirely online (‘gig workers’, who also include crowdworkers, the most typical example of which is the Turkers of Amazon Mechanical Turk) or in the physical world (‘workers via app’, such as riders on food delivery platforms) – with some ‘interference’ during the performance by the platform, which thus does not act as a mere intermediary since it is still somewhat involved in the performance of the task.
In Italy, at present, not only have there been only a limited number of surveys that attempt to determine the number of platform workers, but they are also far from being exhaustive. This is due to obvious reasons: firstly, it is well known that in most cases, the platforms classify platform workers as self-employed workers . As a result, because self-employed workers do not need to be registered with the public entities that regulate the labour market, their number cannot be determined through public registers, so mere estimates must be made. Secondly, there is no generally agreed-upon ‘work platform’ category, and thus the area to be investigated is also open to dispute and depends upon the choices underlying each survey project.
As a result, the surveys conducted to date – which, for the most part, rely on interviews of the workers – address the qualitative profile of this segment of the labour market in an attempt to outline the profile of workers who operate via platform. However, it is undisputed that the labour market segment in question is growing rapidly.