Conceptualizing the Gig Economy and Its Regulatory Problems

Nikos Koutsimpogiorgos, Jaap van Slageren, Andrea M. Herrmann, Koen Frenken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The advent of online platforms has been considered to be one of the most significant economic changes of the last decade, with their emergence reflecting a longer trend of increasing contingent work, labor market flexibility, and outsourcing work to independent contractors. In this article, we conceptualize the so-called gig economy along four dimensions, namely, online intermediation, independent contractors, paid tasks, and personal services. Using this framework, it is possible to derive both a narrow definition of the gig economy, as ex ante specified, paid tasks carried out by independent contractors mediated by online platforms, and broader definitions that include offline alongside online intermediation, employees alongside independent contractors, unpaid tasks alongside paid tasks, and asset sharing alongside performing gigs. The four dimensions also span four key regulatory questions: How should online platforms be classified and regulated; how should gig workers be classified and regulated; what should count as paid and unpaid work; and should we treat earnings from performing gigs differently than earnings from sharing assets? We conclude that the positions taken on these regulatory issues are essentially contingent upon political choices and will determine how the gig economy evolves in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-545
JournalPolicy & Internet
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • platform economy
  • gig economy
  • sharing economy
  • regulation
  • labor
  • pay
  • 平台经济
  • 零工经济
  • 共享经济
  • 监管
  • 劳动力
  • 报酬
  • economía de plataforma
  • economía de concierto
  • economía compartida
  • regulación
  • trabajo
  • paga


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