Project Information

Platform Economy and Social Security: Work and Security Orientations of the Digital Self-Employed between De- and Re-institutionalisation


Digital platforms are becoming a structural characteristic of the modern economy. They bring together supply and demand for goods and services and reduce search costs. As a new form of organisation, they offer opportunities for innovation, economic productivity and new employment opportunities as much as they challenge the established regulatory mechanisms and securities of the social market economy. Employment opportunities created via digital platforms gain attention because they are said to lead the way in intensifying the flexibilisation of work and employment - especially with respect to the increasing volatility and hybridity of individual employment arrangements.

Platforms offer (solo-) self-employed workers the opportunity to increase their visibility, enlarge their client base and reduce search costs for gigs. Vulnerable labour market groups such as people with disabilities may benefit from the low-threshold access in the platform economy and are given opportunities to participate in the labour market. At the same time, paid work in the platform economy is highly de-institutionalised and deregulated. The result is an intensified asymmetry of power between the contracting companies and the platform workers, which – in combination with untransparent digital technologies and algorithms of the platforms – can lead to negative effects. In addition to low pay, the risks of insufficient social security in this highly volatile form of digital self-employment are also highlighted.

Against the background of the digitalisation and platformisation of work and employment, the project focuses on the social security of self-employed people in the platform economy. As there has to date been only little research in this field, the project examines platform self-employment on the basis of a multi-level mixed-methods design and investigates (1) the extent and structure of social security of self-employed persons in the platform economy as well as the embeddedness of platform work in individual and family employment and security arrangements, (2) the subjective work and security orientations and preferences of those self-employed, and (3) social policy reform approaches and their fit with the objective security situations and subjective security preferences of the self-employed in the platform economy.

Research design

The research project is designed as a joint project between the Institute for Work and Qualification (IAQ) at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) and is led by Dr. Fabian Hoose (IAQ) and Dr. Fabian Beckmann (RUB).

The project is based on three empirical modules:

(1) quantitative survey on the security orientations and security behaviour of platform self-employed persons

(2) qualitative in-depth interviews with self-employed in the platform economy on work and security orientations of this group as well as hybridity of employment biographies and arrangements

(3) Qualitative interviews with stakeholders from politics and administration, interest groups and platform operators on social policy reforms for regulating the social security of work and employment in the platform economy.

Project data

Term of the project:
01.12.2021 - 30.11.2024

Reseach department:
Working-Time and Work Organisation

Project management:
Dr. Fabian Hoose

Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales (BMAS)