19 Oct 2015

Digital workers by design? An example from the on-demand economy

Ilaria Maselli / Brian Fabo

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Authors: Ilaria Maselli and Brian Fabo

Series: CEPS Working Documents     No of pp: 15 

Recent organisational and technological changes have generated a digital class of workers and contractors – in effect a new labour-market fringe. In this paper the authors take the case of an Italian crowdsourcing platform for interior design, called CoContest, to examine whether this medium is profitable and why professionals would choose to supply their work via such a platform.

The authors’ analysis shows that despite the low returns on crowdsourced design work, a straightforward pattern of northern employer/southern contractor is not represented here because designers supply their work even if they live in Italy, which is a high-income country. For these designers CoContest can make sense if they are new to the labour market and face high entry barriers, although crowdsourcing does not offer them profitable full-time employment. The case of Serbia, however, which is the second-largest supplier of designers on the platform, is interesting in this regard. As a result of differences in purchasing power, experienced Serbian designers can make a living from crowdsourced contracts, assuming that the market continues to grow.

Ilaria Maselli is a Research Fellow and Brian Fabo is a Researcher at CEPS.