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Who bears the burden of a pandemic? COVID-19 and the transfer of risk to digital platform workers

Abstract : In this paper, we analyze the recessionary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital platform workers. The crisis has been described as a great work-from-home experiment, with platform ecosystems positing as its most advanced form. Our analysis differentiates the direct (health) and indirect (economic) risks incurred by workers, to critically assess the portrayal of platforms as buffers against crisis-induced layoffs. We submit that platform-mediated labor may eventually increase precarity, without necessarily reducing health risks for workers. Our argument is based on a comparison of the three main categories of platform work – “on-demand labor” (gigs such as delivery and transportation), “online labor” (tasks performed remotely, such as data annotation) and “social networking labor” (content generation and moderation). We discuss the strategies that platforms deploy to transfer risk from clients onto workers, thus deepening existing power imbalances between them. These results question the problematic equivalence between work-from-home and platform labor. Instead of attaining the advantages of the former in terms of direct and indirect risk mitigation, an increasing number of platformized jobs drift toward high economic and insuppressible health risks.
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Contributor : Paola Tubaro Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, October 7, 2021 - 11:50:28 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, November 5, 2022 - 4:01:46 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, January 8, 2022 - 6:42:37 PM


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Paola Tubaro, Antonio A Casilli. Who bears the burden of a pandemic? COVID-19 and the transfer of risk to digital platform workers. American Behavioral Scientist, 2022, ⟨10.1177/00027642211066027⟩. ⟨hal-03369291⟩



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