The reality of platform workers: job insecurity, exhaustion and low engagement

Kristel Segeren

The government can play a big role in improving the working conditions and welfare of platform workers. Work experiences of platform workers are more often negative than work experiences of people with other employment contracts. Work-home balance is less good, job insecurity is higher, they are more likely to feel exhausted and engagement is not high. This is according to research by the strategy group at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences. How can platform work become more attractive?

The best-known platform work is delivering meals and offering taxi rides, services where work is collected on an online platform. Scharp and Ter Hoeven's study compared demographic characteristics, working conditions, various aspects of well-being and the influence of proactivity of platform workers with people with other employment contracts. A total of 3620 employed people in the Netherlands completed questionnaires between January and April 2022. Participants in the study had different employment contracts. They included self-employed workers, people with permanent employment contracts, temporary employment contracts and entrepreneurs. About a quarter of the participants even had several contracts.

Stress and exhaustion

Platform work is an opportunity to earn extra income alongside other work, the survey shows. For example, alongside a temporary contract or to bridge a financially weaker period. Platform workers are generally young men and women without children. They do pay a price for this work, as research participants in this group indicate that they struggle to find a good work-life balance, that they experience tension because their work could end at any moment, that they feel quite exhausted and that they are less enthusiastic about their work than people who do not do platform work.

These findings are in line with the literature and previous studies on platform work. What is special about Erasmus University Rotterdam's research is that it focuses on the Netherlands.

Consequences of negative working conditions

In platform work, algorithms play a major role. They often arrange work that is physically performed at a location, such as cleaning work or meal delivery. In addition, platforms are also used for coding, design or copywriting, for example. Working for a platform often creates a sense of dependence, the survey shows. This is because with many platforms, the amount of work a platform worker is offered depends on the speed of work and customer evaluations. There are few opportunities for them to plan and carry out work themselves. In addition to this lack of autonomy, people working through platforms experience that the workload is quite high and the work monotonous. Moreover, they have little or no emotional support from colleagues, as traditional employer-employee relationships do not apply to platform work. These negative working conditions affect the well-being of platform workers. They experience job insecurity, exhaustion, lack of engagement and no good work-life balance.

Taking into account unique working conditions

The researchers from Erasmus University Rotterdam believe it is important to better regulate platform work, taking into account the unique working conditions and different needs of platform workers. Both the government and employers as well as platforms and people working through a platform can contribute to a better position, more job satisfaction and more interesting and better paid platform work.

To this end, Scharp and Ter Hoeven make a number of recommendations: make employers of providers so that platform workers get more rights, have the government organise online or offline meetings where platform workers get support and information, launch an information campaign on the benefits of unions, explain how platform workers can do more complex and better-paid platform work. And give platform workers free e-training in playful work so that their motivation and well-being are boosted. 'Platform workers who did proactive playful work experienced less exhaustion and more engagement than non-playful colleagues,' says researcher Yuri Scharp. 'In this way, employees can proactively regulate their energy.'

Long-term research

The survey on the impact of platform work will be done three times in 2022. These results are about the first measurement. The results of the three measurements are expected to be available by the end of 2022.


The study is a collaboration between the City of Rotterdam, the 'kenniswerkplaats' Organisaties in een Slimme Stad, Erasmus Trustfonds, Govlab010 en de strategy group of Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB) of Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.

In the media


Interview Studio Erasmus, 28 november 2022

dr. Yuri Scharp
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