Crowdwork, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Fair Labor Practices
Research Handbook on Digital Transformations, Chapter 14, Forthcoming
24 Pages Posted: 10 May 2016 Last revised: 8 Jun 2016
Date Written: May 8, 2016
Crowdwork, in which large numbers of workers find and perform paid tasks through online platforms, is a paradox. It can make job-matching and production processes more efficient, but it can also lead to a decline in labor standards. We seek to link ethical labor practices in virtual work with well-established notions of corporate social responsibility, that include concerns for worker well-being and fair treatment. We present a typology of trends in labour, and argue that the new phase of ‘crowdwork’ is distinct from previous eras of ‘industrial’ and ‘digital’ employment. The chapter then outlines three best practices for crowdwork. First is fair wages. Second is the need for transparency, or the idea of fully disclosing to crowdworkers information about their tasks, including fair estimates of time and wages, and the larger goals to which their work contributes. Third is due process, that is, ensuring that online ratings of workers are based on fair criteria, and that platforms establish an appeals process for non-payment of wages or poor ratings. Implementation of these practices would offer a better working environment online, and improve the collaborative potential of crowdwork for platforms and workers alike.
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