Crowdwork – finding new strategies to organise in Europe

Project description

Logo Crowd Work

The European research project “Crowdwork – finding new strategies to organise in Europe” seeks to analyze labor in the digital economy. The focus of the study lies on an emerging form of digital labor called crowd work. The objective of the project is to contribute to a better (self-) organisation of crowd workers in the European context while involving relevant stakeholders such as labor unions into the research.

The term crowd work refers to a new type of digital labor, which is characterized by online platforms, that connect workers on-demand and for a limited period of time to clients. Prominent examples are Lieferando (formerly Deliveroo and Foodora), Amazon Mechanical Turk, testbird or the graphic design platform Jovoto.

In recent years, crowd work has been subject of an ongoing controversial debate that can be characterized by a positive flexibilization narrative on the one side and the critical claim of an emerging class of digital proletarians on the other side. The latter critique usually refers to the accusation of bogus self-employment, to an insufficiently regulated control over crowd workers by algorithms and to a delocalization of work that enables a new form of global division of labor.

This development poses a challenge to labor unions of how to organize and represent crowd workers. Further, innovative forms of self-organized protest campaigns have mobilized crowd workers, especially those working for food delivery platforms.

The research consortium consists of four research institutes located in Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Germany. The goal of the research is not only to investigate the situation in the mentioned countries via qualitative case studies but also to highlight the European dimension of crowd work through a comparative approach.

The ambition is to use the findings to improve working condition in the platform economy, to better connect stakeholders across European countries and to provide policy recommendations on a European level. Thereby, the following research questions will be answered:

  • What are the main forms of crowd work in each country?
  • Which initiatives by labor unions and which forms of self-organized action have been established? How do they differ?
  • Which strategies are needed to further develop these forms of interest representation? How can they be extended in order to address the European context?

Within the research consortium ITAS is investigating crowd work in Germany and is supporting the comparative analysis. Therefore, one explorative case study and further in-depth case studies will be conducted based on qualitative research methods. Major stakeholders within the field, such as labour unions and bottom-up initiatives, will be involved in the study.

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Newsletter No. 2 PDF PDF
Newsletter No. 3 PDF PDF



Book Chapters
Nierling, L.; Krings, B.-J.
Digitalisation and concepts of extended work.
2021. Post-Growth Work: employment and meaningful activities within planetary boundaries. Ed. by: Irmi Seidl and Angelika Zahrnt, 134–146, Routledge 
Nierling, L.
Technikfolgenabschätzung für eine digitale Arbeitswelt.
2021. Zukunftsforum Schweinfurt : Robotik und digitale Produktion (2021), Schweinfurt, Germany, June 7, 2021 
Nierling, L.; Krings, B.-J.
How is labour organised in German digital platforms.
2021. Final international conference of the project Crowdwork (2021), Online, July 29, 2021 
Nierling, L.; Krings, B.-J.
Reality check of crowd work in Germany – results and open questions with regard to collective representation.
2021. International Conference of the Project Crowdwork (2021), Online, March 4, 2021 
Conference Papers
Nierling, L.; Schreiber, A.; Fischer, M.
Prospektive Weiterbildung für Industrie 4.0: Analyse- und Gestaltungsperspektiven.
2020. Digitale Welt – Herausforderungen für die berufliche Bildung und die Professionalität der Lehrenden : Ergebnisse des 5. und 6. Chinesisch-Deutschen Workshops zur Berufsbildungsforschung. Hrsg.: W. Jiping, 157–186, Eusl 
Nierling, L.
Das Themenfeld Arbeit in der Technikfolgenabschätzung.
2020. 1. Digitalisierung, Umbruch und sozialer Zusammenhalt - Konferenz des Netzwerks Arbeits- und Arbeitnehmer*innenforschung Baden-Württemberg statt (2020), Online, October 16, 2020 
Book Chapters
Nierling, L.; Krings, B.-J.
Digitalisierung und erweiterte Arbeit.
2019. Tätigsein in der Postwachstumsgesellschaft. Hrsg.: I. Seidl, 175–190, Metropolis 
Nierling, L.
Das Verhältnis von technischem Wandel und Arbeitswelt.
2019. Sitzung des IG Metall Netzwerks Industrie 4.0 (2019), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, November 26, 2019 
Nierling, L.
Freiwilligenarbeit als Arbeit. Potentiale und Grenzen im Lichte der Anerkennungstheorie von Axel Honneth.
2019. Workshop ’Kritische Perspektiven auf Freiwilligenarbeit’ (2019), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, May 27–28, 2019 
Nierling, L.; Krings, B.-J.
The landscape of crowdwork in Germany.
2019. 2nd Crowdwork 21 Project Meeting (2019), Barcelona, Spain, November 14–15, 2019 
Nierling, L.; Krings, B.-J.
Digitalisierung und erweiterte Arbeit.
2019. Konferenz “Great Transformation: Die Zukunft moderner Gesellschaften” (2019), Jena, Germany, September 23–27, 2019 


Dr. Linda Nierling
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-22509