Young Workers on Digital Labor Platforms: Uncovering the Double Autonomy Paradox

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.127867

Keywords:

Health, Working Environment & Wellbeing, Work/Life Balance, Gender, Ethnicity, Age and Diversity, Organization & Management

Abstract

Drawing on interviews with 12 young adults in the Danish digital labor market, this article investigates how young workers on digital labor platforms experience the tension between ‘algorithmic management’ and autonomy. Digital labor platforms promise autonomy to workers, but the study shows that the platforms in varying degrees exert control over the labor process in different stages of the work. The inherent non-transparency of the algorithmic management systems makes it difficult for the young workers to understand the underlying mechanisms of the platforms. While the young workers’ autonomy in some important ways is restricted by the algorithmic management systems, the young workers have all chosen the platform work because they feel that it allows them to control where and when they work. We propose the conceptualization ‘the double autonomy paradox of young workers’ to describe this phenomenon.

Author Biographies

Cæcilie Sloth Laursen, IT University of Copenhagen

PhD fellow. E-mail: cael@itu.dk

Mette Lykke Nielsen, Aalborg University

Associate professor, Centre for Youth Research.

Johnny Dyreborg, National Research Centre for the Working Environment

Senior researcher

References

Altenried, M. (2020). The platform as factory: Crowdwork and the hidden labour behind artificial intelligence, Capital & Class 44(2): 145–158. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309816819899410

Antonucci, L., Hamilton, M., & Roberts, S. (Eds.). (2014). Young people and social policy in Europe. dealing with risk, inequality and precarity in times of crisis (1st ed.), Hampshire: Palegrave Macmillan.

Berg, J., Furrer, M., Harmon, E., Uma, R. and Silberman, M.S. (2018) Digital labour platforms and the future of work: Towards decent work in the online world. Report, 20 September, Geneva: International Labour Organization (ILO). http://www.ilo.org/global/publications/books/WCMS_645337/lang--en/index.htm [Accessed 2 January 2020].

Bjarte, S., Arnstein, M., Dahl, A.A., Bente, E., Moen, Tell, G.S. Testing the Job Demand–Control–Support model with anxiety and depression as outcomes: The Hordaland Health Study, Occupational Medicine 2005; 55(6):463–473, https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqi071

Bond, F. W., & Bunce, D. (2003). The Role of Acceptance and Job Control in Mental Health, Job Satisfaction, and Work Performance, Journal of Applied Psychology 88(6): 1057-1067. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.88.6.1057

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology 3(2): 77–101. DOI: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.

Bryman, A. (2016) Social Research Methods. Fifth Edition, Oxford: New York: Oxford University Press.

Bucher, T. (2017) The algorithmic imaginary: exploring the ordinary affects of Facebook algorithms. Information, Communication & Society 20(1): 30–44. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2016.1154086.

Casas-Cortés, M. (2014). A genealogy of Precarity: A toolbox for rearticulating fragmented social realities in and out of the workplace, Rethinking Marxism 26(2): 206-226.

Chabber. (n.d.). Basic information about salary at Chabber. Retrieved January 7, 2020, from http://faq.chabber.com/en/articles/2544961-basic-information-about-salary-at-chabber

Chen, J.Y. (2018) Thrown under the bus and outrunning it! The logic of Didi and taxi drivers’ labour and activism in the on-demand economy, New Media & Society 20(8): 2691–2711. DOI: 10.1177/1461444817729149.

Coyle, D. (2017) Precarious and Productive Work in the Digital Economy, National Institute Economic Review 240(1): R5–R14. DOI: 10.1177/002795011724000110.

Danish Working Environment Authority (2013). Arbejdstilsynets årsopgørelse 2013. Anmeldte arbejdsulykker 2008-2013. tema: Unges og nyansattes risiko. [Year statement of the Danish Working Environment Authority 2013. Reported accidents 2008-2013. Theme: Risk for youths and newly employed]

Day, A., Crown, S.N. and Ivany, M. (2017) Organisational change and employee burnout: The moderating effects of support and job control, Safety Science 100: 4–12. DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2017.03.004.

Duggan, J., Sherman, U., Carbery, R. and McDonnell, A. (2019) Algorithmic management and app‐work in the gig economy: A research agenda for employment relations and HRM, Human Resource Management Journal. DOI: 10.1111/1748-8583.12258.

Dunn, M. (2020) Making gigs work: digital platforms, job quality and worker motivations. New Technology, Work and Employment 35: 232-249. https://doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12167

Dyreborg, J. (2011) ‘Safety Matters Have Become Too Important for Management to Leave it Up to the Workers’ –The Nordic OSH Model Between Implicit and Explicit Frameworks, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 1(1): 135–160. DOI: 10.19154/njwls.v1i1.2339.

Dyreborg, J., Sundstrup, E., Jørgensen, A., Kristiansen, J., Hougaard, K.S. and Johansen, N.F. (2018) Unges arbejdsmiljø og helbred. [Young people’s work environment and health]. Rapport til Arbejdsmiljørådet. København: Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Arbejdsmiljø (NFA).

European Commission (2019). Country Report Denmark 2019. Commission staff working document, Brussels.

European Parliament and The Council of the European Union (2016) General Data Protection Regulation. Official Journal of the European Union. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32016R0679&from=EN [Accessed 6 February 2020].

Gandini, A. (2019). Labour process theory and the gig economy, Human Relations 72(6): 1039–1056. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726718790002

Garben, S. (2017) Protecting Workers in the Online Platform Economy: An overview of regulatory and policy developments in the EU. European Risk Observatory. Discussion paper. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. DOI: 10.2802/918187.

Gillespie, T. (2014) The Relevance of Algorithms. In: Gillespie T, Jackson SJ, Boczkowski PJ, Foot KA, Bijker WE, Bowker GC, et al. (eds) Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society, Cambridge, United States: MIT Press, pp. 167–194.

Gjoni, V. (2021) ‘Wolt’s revolt: Couriers upset with new bonus scheme that has forced some to work 36-hour weekends’, https://www.cphpost.dk/, 1 March. www.cphpost.dk [Accessed 30 April 2021].

Howcroft, D. and Bergvall-Kåreborn, B. (2019) A Typology of Crowdwork Platforms, Work, Employment and Society 33(1): 21–38. DOI: 10.1177/0950017018760136.

Huws, U. (2015) Online labour exchanges, or ‘crowdsourcing’: Implications for occupational safety and health: Review article on the future of work. Commissioned report, 1 November. European Occupational Safety and Health Agency.

Hvid, H., Lambrecht Lund, H., Grosen, S. L., & Holt, H. (2010). Associational control: Between self-management and standardization in the financial sector, Economic and Industrial Democracy 31(4): 639–659. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143831X10365929

Ilsøe, A. and Madsen, L.W. (2017) Digitalisering af arbejdsmarkedet - Danskernes erfaring med digital automatisering og digitale platforme. [Digitalisation of the labor market – The Danes’ experience with automation and digital platforms], FAOS Forskningsnotat 157: 59.

Jarrahi, M.H. and Sutherland, W. (2019) Algorithmic Management and Algorithmic Competencies: Understanding and Appropriating Algorithms in Gig Work. In: Taylor NG, Christian-Lamb C, Martin MH, and Nardi B (eds) Information in Contemporary Society, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 578–589. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-15742-5_55.

Jarrahi, M.H., Sutherland, W., Nelson, S.B. and Sawyer, S. (2019) Platformic Management, Boundary Resources for Gig Work, and Worker Autonomy, Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). DOI: 10.1007/s10606-019-09368-7.

Jesnes, K., Øistad, B.S., Alsos, K. and Nesheim, T. (2016) Aktører og arbeid i delingsøkonomien. [Actors and work in the sharing economy], 2016:23, Delrapport, FAFO-notat, Oslo: FAFO.

Kalleberg, A.L. (2009) Precarious work, insecure workers: Employment relations in transition, American Sociological Review 74(1): 1–22.

Kalleberg, A.L., Nesheim, T. and Olsen, K.M. (2009) Is Participation Good or Bad for Workers?: Effects of Autonomy, Consultation and Teamwork on Stress Among Workers in Norway, Acta Sociologica 52(2): 99–116. DOI: 10.1177/0001699309103999.

Karasek, R.A. (1979) Job Demands, Job Decision Latitude, and Mental Strain: Implications for Job Redesign, Administrative Science Quarterly 24(2): 285–308. DOI: 10.2307/2392498.

Kitchin, R. (2017) Thinking critically about and researching algorithms, Information, Communication & Society 20(1): 14–29. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2016.1154087.

Lee, M.K., Kusbit, D., Metsky, E. and Dabbish, L. (2015) Working with Machines: The Impact of Algorithmic and Data-Driven Management on Human Workers. In: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’15, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 2015, pp. 1603–1612. ACM Press. DOI: 10.1145/2702123.2702548.

MacDonald, R., Giazitzoglu, A. (2019). Youth, enterprise and precarity: or, what is, and what is wrong with, the ‘gig economy’? Journal of Sociology 55(4): 724–740. https://doi.org/10.1177/1440783319837604

Mazmanian, M., Orlikowski, W. J., & Yates, J. (2013). The autonomy paradox: The implications of mobile email devices for knowledge professionals, Organization Science 24(5): 1337-1357.

Meploy (2019) Community Guidelines. Available at: https://cloud.meploy.me/static/pdf/Community-Guidelines-DK.pdf [Accessed 11 December 2019].

Moore, P. V. (2018) ‘The Threat of Physical and Psychosocial Violence and Harassment in Digitalized Work’, International Labour Office.

Möhlmann, M. and Zalmanson, L. (2017) Hands on the wheel: Navigating algorithmic management and Uber drivers’ autonomy. In: the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS 2017), South Korea, 2017, p. 18.

Nielsen, M. L. & Laursen, C. (2020). Unge på digitale arbejdsplatforme: Prekært arbejde eller unge entreprenører? [Young people on digital work platforms: precarious work or young entrepreneurs] Nordisk Tidsskrift for Ungdomsforskning. Årgang 1, nr. 2-2020, s. 105–123. DOI: https://doi.org/2535-8162-2020-02-02

Nielsen, M.L., Nielsen, L.Y., Holte, K.A., Andersson, Å., Gudmundsson, G., Heijstra, T.M., et al. (2019) New Forms of Work among Young People, Nordic Council of Ministers. DOI: 10.6027/Nord2019-025.

Nielsen, M.L., Dyreborg, J. and Lipscomb, H.J. (2018) Precarious work among young Danish employees - a permanent or transitory condition? Journal of Youth Studies 22 (1): 7–28. DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2018.1469739.

Nielsen, M.L., Dyreborg, J., Kines, P., Nielsen, K. and Rasmussen, K. (2013) Exploring and expanding the category of young adult workers. Situating young workers’ risk management in the retail industry, Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies 3(3): 219–243.

Popescu, G.H., Petrescu, I.E. and Sabie, O.M. (2018) Algorithmic Labor in the Platform Economy: Digital Infrastructures, Job Quality, and Workplace Surveillance, Economics, Management, and Financial Markets 13(3): 74. DOI: 10.22381/EMFM13320184.

Prassl, J. (2018) Humans as a Service: The Promise and Perils of Work in the Gig Economy, Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198797012.001.0001.

Raval, N. and Dourish, P. (2016) Standing Out from the Crowd: Emotional Labor, Body Labor, and Temporal Labor in Ridesharing. In: Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing - CSCW ’16, San Francisco, California, USA, 2016, pp. 97–107. ACM Press. DOI: 10.1145/2818048.2820026.

Rosenblat, A. and Stark, L. (2016) Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s Drivers, International Journal of Communication 10(0): 27.

Scheuer, S. (2014) Atypisk ansatte i Europa og i Danmark –Baggrund, udvikling og vilkår 2000- 2011. [Atypical employed in Europe and in Denmark – Background, development and conditions 2000-2011], København: FTF.

Seaver, N. (2017) Algorithms as culture: Some tactics for the ethnography of algorithmic systems. Big Data & Society 4(2): 205395171773810. DOI: 10.1177/2053951717738104.

Sennett, R. (1998) The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism. 1st ed., New York: Norton.

Shapiro, A. (2018). Between autonomy and control: Strategies of arbitrage in the “on-demand” economy, New Media & Society 20(8): 2954–2971. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817738236

Standing, G. (2016) Labour brokers: The precariat bears the strain. In: The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay, UK: Biteback Publishing.

Sutherland, W., Jarrahi, M.H., Dunn, M. and Nelson, S.B. (2019) Work Precarity and Gig Literacies in Online Freelancing, Work, Employment and Society. DOI: 10.1177/0950017019886511.

Sørensen, O.H., et al. (2012) Nordiske forskningsperspektiver på arbejdsmiljø: Mening, indflydelse og samarbejde. [Nordic research perspectives on work environment: Opinion, influence, and collaboration]. TemaNord 2012:525

Tannock, S. (2003) Why do working youth work where they do? In: Roulleau-Berger L (Red.) Youth and work in the post-industrial city of North America and Europe, Leiden; Boston: Brill. 285-304.

Thompson, C. A., & Prottas, D. J. (2006). Relationships among organizational family support, job autonomy, perceived control, and employee well-being, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 11(1): 100-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1076-8998.10.4.100

Veen, A., Barratt, T. and Goods, C. (2019) Platform-Capital’s ‘App-etite’ for Control: A Labour Process Analysis of Food-Delivery Work in Australia, Work, Employment and Society. DOI: 10.1177/0950017019836911.

Weber, S.S. (2018) Working life on Nordic labour platforms. In: Hvid H and Falkum E (eds) Work and Wellbeing in the Nordic Countries. 1st Edition, London: Routledge, pp. 339–358.

Wheatley, D. (2017) Autonomy in Paid Work and Employee Subjective Well-Being, Work and Occupations 44(3): 296–328. DOI: 10.1177/0730888417697232.

Wood, A.J., Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, V. and Hjorth, I. (2018) Good Gig, Bad Gig: Autonomy and Algorithmic Control in the Global Gig Economy. Work, Employment and Society. DOI: 10.1177/0950017018785616.

Worksome (2019) ‘Standardvilkår for Worksome’, [Standard terms for Worksome]. https://www.worksome.dk/terms/ [Accessed 2 May 2021].

Downloads

Published

2021-07-01

How to Cite

Sloth Laursen, C., Nielsen, M. L. ., & Dyreborg, J. (2021). Young Workers on Digital Labor Platforms: Uncovering the Double Autonomy Paradox. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies. https://doi.org/10.18291/njwls.127867

Issue

Section

Articles