The Rise of the 'Just-in-Time Workforce': On-Demand Work, Crowd Work and Labour Protection in the 'Gig-Economy'

51 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2015 Last revised: 12 Jan 2016

See all articles by Valerio De Stefano

Valerio De Stefano

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Date Written: October 28, 2015


The so-called “gig-economy” has been growing exponentially in numbers and importance in recent years but its impact on labour rights has been largely overlooked. Forms of work in the “gig-economy” include “crowd work”, and “work-on-demand via apps”, under which the demand and supply of working activities is matched online or via mobile apps. These forms of work can provide a good match of job opportunities and allow flexible working schedules. However, they can also pave the way to a severe commodification of work. This paper discusses the implications of this commodification and advocates the full recognition of activities in the gig-economy as “work”. It shows how the gig-economy is not a separate silo of the economy and that is part of broader phenomena such as casualization and informalisation of work and the spread of non-standard forms of employment. It then analyses the risks associated to these activities with regard to Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as they are defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and addresses the issue of misclassification of the employment status of workers in the gig-economy. Current relevant trends are thus examined, such as the emergence of forms of self-organisation of workers. Finally, some policy proposals are critically analysed, such as the possibility of creating an intermediate category of worker between “employee” and “independent contractor” to classify work in the gig-economy, and other tentative proposals are put forward such extension of fundamental labour rights to all workers irrespective of employment status, and recognition of the role of social partners in this respect, whilst avoiding temptations of hastened deregulation.

Note: This paper was presented at the seminar on Crowd-Sourcing, the Gig Economy, and the Law, hold at the Wharton School – University of Pennsylvania, on 7 November 2015. Contributions presented at the seminar will be published, after review, in a special issue of the Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, in 2016. An earlier version was presented at the IV Regulating for Decent Work Conference hold at the ILO, in Geneva, IV Regulating for Decent Work Conference, 8-10 July 2015.

Keywords: gig-economy, crowdwork, uberisation, casual work, non-standard work, fundamental principles and right at work

JEL Classification: J23, J42, J51, J58

Suggested Citation

De Stefano, Valerio, The Rise of the 'Just-in-Time Workforce': On-Demand Work, Crowd Work and Labour Protection in the 'Gig-Economy' (October 28, 2015). Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, Forthcoming, Bocconi Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2682602 , Available at SSRN: or

Valerio De Stefano (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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