Co-funded by the European Union

Mapping on new forms of work in the countries of the European Union and Norway

  • Eurofound research highlighted and measured 9 new forms of work
  • It proposed policymakers to focus on “balancing flexibility with the retention of employment standards and workers’ protection”.

Eurofound, the tripartite European Union Agency established in 1975 to deal with labour issues, has recently presented an update of its 2013-2014 research on new forms of work and work relationships.

The past research identified and analysed 9 trends and 66 case studies in the European Labour market since 2000, relating to “formal relationships between employers and employees that differ from the established one-to-one employment relationship, uncommon work patterns or work organisation (notably related to time and place of work), networking and cooperation among the self-employed, or some combination of these”.

The following nine trends were highlighted in the new research:

  1. employee sharing, where an individual worker is jointly hired by a group of employers to meet the HR needs of various companies, resulting in permanent full-time employment for the worker;
  2. job sharing, where an employer hires two or more workers to jointly fill a specific job, combining two or more part-time jobs into a full-time position;
  3. interim management, in which highly skilled experts are hired temporarily for a specific project or to solve a specific problem, thereby integrating external management capacities in the work organisation;
  4. casual work, where an employer is not obliged to provide work regularly to the employee, but has the flexibility of calling them in on demand;
  5. ICT-based mobile work, where workers can do their job from any place at any time, supported by modern technologies;
  6. voucher-based work, where the employment relationship is based on payment for services with a voucher purchased from an authorised organisation that covers both pay and social security contributions;
  7. portfolio work, where a self-employed individual works for a large number of clients, doing smallscale jobs for each of them;
  8. crowd employment, where an online platform matches employers and workers, often with larger tasks being split up and divided among a ‘virtual cloud’ of workers;
  9. collaborative employment, where freelancers, the self-employed or micro enterprises cooperate in some way to overcome limitations of size and professional isolation

Among the key findings, the paper indicated that “those forms that seem most likely to be beneficial to the labour market are employee sharing, job sharing and interim management, while casual work is likely to be the most disadvantageous. All of the new employment forms have the potential to aid labour market integration of specific groups of workers, but their job creation potential is rather limited”.

The 2020 update shows that the nine forms of work are increasing in Europe, for instance ICT-based mobile work is now present in all countries (from the 60% of the previous research), while casual work increased from 44% to 86%. Platform work is also growing, and its existence raised from 40% to 95% of the EU countries.

With regards to the latter, “no pan-European data exist on the scale of platform work. The available evidence indicates that it is, in general, a marginal but growing phenomenon. Most research (see Table 6, page 14) cites 1–2% of the workforce being engaged in platform work as a main job, and around 10% doing it occasionally”.

The new research highlights the challenge related to the lack of harmonised concepts and definitions, which in view of the post Covid-19 recovery phase could be beneficial in terms of gathering data and better understanding the phenomenon.

In conclusion, the updated mapping proposes policymakers to focus on “balancing flexibility with the retention of employment standards and workers’ protection. This requires a nuanced approach: tailor-made interventions should tackle the specific opportunities and challenges inherent in individual employment forms, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all stance across the diversity of new forms of employment”.

The report also acknowledges “the opportunities presented by new forms of employment must not be neglected. All of them have the potential to contribute to the labour market integration of (and thus income generation for) specific groups, notably those disadvantaged in the labour market due to their need for flexibility in terms of working time or place of work. Awareness raising and measures supporting the introduction of such work patterns in a win–win form could be beneficial. [...]Some types of platform work and collaborative employment have the potential to foster an entrepreneurial spirit, transversal skills and the innovation capacity of workers, which can enhance workers’ employability and improve the perceived meaningfulness of their work. Therefore, awareness raising and active support in implementing these new forms of employment in a favourable way are to be recommended”.