Platform work in Finland, part II

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Two weeks ago we published the first of our two blogs on platform work in Finland. In it, we discussed the frequency of platform work in Finland. In this one, we tell you what those performing platform work in Finland think about it.

Why do people engage in platform work in Finland?

In the last blog, we established that only about 7 % of those who had done platform work within the past month had done enough hours to make it a part-time or full-time job. So, if platform work is not a full-time occupation for most of platform workers, why do they do it? Statistics Finland asked this question from those who had done platform work within the past month.

About a quarter of them said that they wanted a job that was flexible. About 55 % said they wanted a job that provided some extra income or a possibility for networking. Only 7 % said they did platform work because nothing else was available. 9 % indicated that the type of work they wanted to do was only available through platform work. 

So, only for the small minority, platform work was the only kind of job they were able to get. And, as we established in our last blog, only for the very small minority does income from platform work provide the majority of their income. 

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 An employee or an entrepreneur?

One of the biggest challenges with platform work is that the status of the person performing the tasks is legally unclear. 

As we have explained before, being an employee means having access to things entrepreneurs don’t have access to unless they pay and organize it for themselves. Entrepreneurs need to factor these costs into the fees they charge for their labor. These include paid vacation days, occupational healthcare, and other things. It makes a difference if you get these on top of the monetary compensation you receive or whether you have to organize and pay for them from that monetary compensation. 

In Finland, one of the determining characteristics of an employment relationship is the amount of control the commissioner of the job or task has over the performance of that task or job. We explained this as well in our ‘Employee or not’ blog referred to above. This control includes such things as the nature of tasks performed or the timing of that performance.

Control over the nature of the task performed

Because of the significance of this point, Statistics Finland also wanted to find out how much control platforms actually have over the work performed. Thus they asked how platform workers got their work assignments. 

51 % of the respondents indicated that they had offered their services or labor on a platform. 20 % said that they themselves had selected the tasks they wanted to perform among tasks offered by clients. In these latter cases, then, those doing the task had significant control over their own labor. 28 % had selected jobs or tasks from among those the platform had offered them. In this latter case, the platform then plays a significant role in the distribution of work. The platform was in control over the type and timing of the tasks it offered. 

Somewhat surprisingly considering the general impression of platform work, 81 % of the respondents who did this type of work said that they were free to decline any job offer. 4 % said that couldn’t decline because if they did, their access to the platform would be denied at least temporarily. 14 % said they couldn’t turn down offered jobs for some other reason.

Timing of work

In an employment relationship, the employer sets the working hours. Naturally, the employer is not completely free to set the hours. In Finland, the Working Hours Act set limits for the number and timing of hours (read more here and here) as do individual collective agreements. Nevertheless, control over working hours is one of the defining characteristics of an employment relationship. 

In this study into platform work in Finland, Statistics Finland found that 59 % of those who had done platform work within the past month decided independently how many hours they would do. 15 % said they could influence their working hours as long as the task was finished on time or at least some of it was performed at specific hours.

Only 13 % said their working hours were set by the platform or the clients. 8 % said they were able to choose their working hours from preset options. 

Control over the quality of job performance

In an employment relationship, the employer can and do monitor employees’ performance at work. In platform work, this type of quality control often involves some sort of a point system.

Among the Statistics Finland respondents, 46 % said their clients, the platform or both gave points for their job performance. 48 % said their performance was not assessed via such a system.

87 % of those under a point system said they understood the system and the criteria used for awarding points well or relatively well. 13 % said they had a poor or very poor understanding of the points system. 

70 % felt they could impact the number of points they were awarded a lot or quite a lot. An additional 21 % said they could influence it at least a little bit. Only 6 % felt they had no control over the number of points they were awarded. 

88 % felt the points system was very or somewhat fair. This high level of satisfaction with the point system is understandable since the majority of those under such a system seem to understand how points are awarded. They also feel they can influence how many points they receive. Only 9 % felt the point system was quite or very unfair.  

Compensation for platform work in Finland

Statistics Finland also set out to understand how platform work in Finland is compensated. 

42 % of respondents said they themselves set their compensation levels. In these cases, the platform did not influence compensation levels. 

For about 25 % of respondents, the platform or the clients set the compensation level. They themselves did not have any influence over the compensation. For an additional 6 %, the platform or the clients had determined a specific, non-negotiable range of compensation.  

9 % were able to negotiate their compensation with the platform or the clients. 13 % said their compensation was set in some other way. 

73 % of those who had done platform work within the past month said that they considered their compensation fair or somewhat fair. 16 % felt that the compensation they received was somewhat unfair in comparison to the work effort. 3 % felt it was very unfair.

In summary

This survey by Statistics Finland suggests that platform work in Finland is still quite a marginal mode of work. It also shows that individuals doing this work seem to be quite satisfied with the flexibility it provides. There also don’t seem to be major issues with compensation levels or with the points system. 

However, this survey shows that only for a small minority of platform workers does this mode of work provide full-time employment. We do not, however, know what kind of living this full-time employment provides. We do not know what the level of compensation really is. Nor do we know how it compares to wages and salaries in more traditional modes of work, especially considering pension and social insurance benefits associated with normal employment relationships. 

In a previous blog on fairness in platform work, we discussed ways in which both platforms and platform workers can increase the experienced fairness of platform work. Both that and this discussion approached fairness as an immediate thing, fairness experienced here and now.  

Long-term and heavy engagement with platform work, however, can have a significant long-term (financial) impact on those doing it. What I mean is that this type of work, usually done outside employment relationships, influences the future pension levels of platform workers, their access to different forms of social insurance (such as unemployment and sickness insurance), and occupational healthcare. The nature of the relationship also determines who in these relationships carries the responsibility for health and safety, liability issues, and other issues. EU-level legislation is sure to address these complications. Until then, platform workers should at least be aware of how platform work compares with regular employment relationships and what that means for their long-term financial benefit.  

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