Platform Labor

The Platform Labor research project aims to determine how digital platforms are transforming the way people work, generate income, and sustain themselves as well as each other on an everyday basis.

Platforms have emerged as powerful mediators shaping labor, social reproduction, capital accumulation, and (urban) governance. As gatekeepers and norm-makers, they are becoming institutional actors that participate in the redrawing of relations between civil society, the market, and the state. Given that these relations have historically been shaped by pervasive gender, racial and class inequalities, it is crucial to ask to what extent these inequalities are reproduced by digital platforms. There is also a need to examine if/how these platforms generate new vulnerabilities or, conversely, tools for empowerment.

Accordingly, the Platform Labor research project investigates the distribution of opportunities and challenges associated with the platform-mediated reorganization of labor and livelihood, specifically in so-called “post-welfare” societies (i.e. societies marked by successive waves of welfare reform). The project features four main research topics, each of which is elaborated in one of the four subprojects:

  • The organization and experience of low-income service work in platform-mediated “gig/on-demand” economies (Subproject 1);
  • The strategies for monetizing hosting labor and housing assets in “short-term rental/home sharing” markets, specifically on Airbnb (Subproject 2);
  • The emergence of “post-welfare” platforms that (re)arrange paid and unpaid care work, social support infrastructures, and welfare practices (Subproject 3);
  • The intersections of neoliberalization and platformization, as articulated in the multiscalar policy and regulatory responses that shape (and are shaped by) the political economy of platform labor (Subproject 4).

The project adopts a cross-national comparative approach to these topics, examining how digital platforms operate in and have impact on three capital cities in the Global North featuring large and distinct platform economies: Amsterdam, Berlin, and New York City.

The Platform Labor research project is funded with a Starting Grant awarded by the European Research Council.


Research team