Digital collaborative platforms: A challenge for social partners in the Nordic model


  • Annamaria Westregård



Crowdworkers—workers in the new digital economy—face new employment situations not covered by the existing legislation. This paper focuses on the specific problems in the labour and social security legislation as it relates to crowdworkers, analysing their place in labour markets, and especially in the collective agreements which are the standard means of regulating working conditions in the Nordic model. Exactly how the concept of employment should be framed when someone works for an online platform depends entirely on the platform’s business model, which can vary from closely managed, vertically integrated businesses to service-only crowdsourcing agencies, so it is not easy to make general statements about crowdworkers’ status. This paper analyses whether the concept of an ‘employee’ can be applied to crowdworkers, looking at both labour and tax law (the latter being especially important in the handling of social security and unemployment benefits). Under labour law the concept of an employee is a matter of interpretation, and the Swedish Labour Court would probably hold many crowdworkers to be employees, but equally a considerable number, being self-employed, would not be. The law on working and employment conditions offers only limited protection of those on short, fixed-term contracts; instead, it is social partners that have improved crowdworkers’ conditions in some industries by using collective bargaining. However, there are no collective agreements in the digital economy, or indeed for platform entrepreneurs. The complications of the parties’ positions will be analysed, especially as platforms do not consider themselves to be employers, but rather coordinators of the selfemployed. Particularly significant for the crowdsourcing economy are the regulations that give the same employees’ rights to ‘dependent contractors’ who have employee-like status to organize and enter into collective agreements, while many crowdworkers are in a grey area, being neither employees, ‘false self-employed’, assignment workers, nor selfemployed. Legislatures are reviewing the situation at the national and EU levels in order to strengthen the rules for those in atypical forms of employment. This may lead social partners to finally acknowledge that they will have to introduce collective bargaining into the digital economy.