The true nature of 'crowdlearn' and 'crowdwork' was the focus of a Cedefop seminar, where experts discussed whether online platform work can be an enabler for professionals or just masking 'dependent' employment.

The research and analysis findings of the Agency's unique Crowdlearn project were presented at Cedefop’s webinar '2030 on the horizon: skills in the online platform economy' with participants reflecting on their implications for European skills and education policy. The event attracted almost 100 people, an audience of policy analysts, researchers, platform economy stakeholders and social partners.

Cedefop implemented the CrowdLearn project during 2017 - 2019 in order to provide insights on skills and learning in the online platform economy. As the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the vast opportunities of working and learning digitally, boundaries between traditional and ‘atypical’ work became blurred, and this is exemplified by the rise of online ‘platform’ work, also known as ‘crowdwork’.

Cedefop’s Head of department of vocational education and training (VET) and skills, Antonio Rianieri and expert Konstantinos Pouliakas presented the Agency’s work on these CrowdLearn surveys, which are the first systematic approaches to examine how EU platform workers develop their skills and how they are matched to client demands.

2030 on the horizon: skills in the online platform economy

The two CrowdLearn surveys Cedefop conducted were focused on EU workers who were active on some of the most prominent online labour platforms (UpWork, PeoplePerHour, Fiverr, Amazon Mechanical Turk). The first survey examined how online freelance platform workers engage in workplace learning, skill formation and skills matching, while the second one focused on microworkers. The data of the two surveys were used to analyse workers’ tasks, learning practices, skill development and personal motivations for engaging in platform work.

Some participants argued that the increasing use of online labour platforms as job market matchmakers can have many advantages, like the enablement of socially excluded individuals to overcome labour market barriers, increase earnings, improve work-life balance and develop new skills to build or expand their career.

'A great opportunity'

New forms of employment, such as platform work, – they said – can be a great opportunity allowing individuals to access international markets with greater work flexibility, and there are a number of key factors that may inhibit ‘’healthy’’ skill formation, development and matching processes in platform work.

Other experts, though, view crowdwork more as an extreme form of digital solo-entrepreneurship that conceal precarious employment.

The event also featured a panel discussion with leading experts, policy makers and social partners on how to improve skill development and matching policies for platform work.

Recent research and analysis using the unique Crowdlearn dataset was presented by experts from the Copenhagen Business School and Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

As Mr Ranieri noted, Cedefop has been working extensively, and will continue to work, on mapping the skills demanded in online platform work by cooperating with Eurostat to explore the possibilities on establishing a regular and reliable pipeline of real-time data based on web-scraping of online labour platforms.