The German platform economy: Strict regulations but unfair standards?

Fabian Ferrari, Alessio Bertolini*, Maren Borkert, Mark Graham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

In the German public debate, platform work and crowdwork have become the epitome of the dark side of the digital transformation of the working world. Although Germany is marked by a high density of labour regulations, those do not necessarily translate into/create fair conditions for platform workers in the country. At first glance, the historical legacy of strong social partnership between employers' and workers' organisations and the restrictiveness of German labour law mean Germany present powerful regulatory tools to thwart precarity and strengthen workers' rights in the platform economy. However, the spread of non-standard employment and sub-contracting, in combination with increased migration from within and beyond the EU, has given rise to a rather different picture. Assisted by public demands for far-reaching deregulations to secure Germany's international competitiveness as production site, several digital labour platforms have found an environment conducive to growth in Germany. Platform work in Germany is often lauded for its flexibility and low entry barriers, as it provides an easy opportunity to earn an income and can help labour market integration for those who face barriers to standard employment. Nevertheless, important issues are present. The paper aims to shed light on the working conditions of platform workers in Germany. The analysis is founded upon the five core principles of Fairwork. Drawing from documentary analysis, 65 semi-structured interviews with platform workers and 8 interviews with platform managers, the paper finds that the country's relatively stringent labour regulations do not always translate into fair working conditions for platform workers. Although, compared to other countries, many platforms workers in Germany are legally classified as employees, sub-contracting practices, the use of unskilled migrant labour and other platforms' practices undermine many employment rights in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100084
JournalDigital Geography and Society
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Keywords

  • Fair work
  • Germany
  • Platform economy
  • Working conditions

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