Definition game – from partners to customers?

by Meri Koivusalo, Mikko Perkiö, Arseniy Svynarenko, and Benta Mbare

In this blog we focus on the debate concerning employment status and how the new European Commission proposals on improving working conditions in platform work relate to this on the ground of our research on platform work. We examine some key elements in the Commission proposal, and reactions from companies and trade unions suggesting challenges and way forward.

Partner, employee, or customer

As part our research of working condition in platform economy we have interviewed dozens of Uber drivers and food delivery workers. The employment status is one of one of the most crucial and at the same time complicated issues. There are very few examples of platforms adopting the employment model.

When transportation platforms claim that workers are “partners”, the level of actual control over workers create the situation when workers perceptions of own status and consequently knowledge of own rights is by far more confused. For instance, one labour platform on its webpage addresses its potential couriers with a slogan “Be your own boss”, presuming that it offers a flexible work and high level of worker’s autonomy. In interviews with platform workers the most common message we received was: “Seriously, I still consider <Platform> is my boss!”.

However, recently Juhani Mykkänen, who is one of founders of food delivery company Wolt, has added another level of complexity to the status definition. Mykkänen described Wolt platform as the customer of the courier:

“Does a gig worker have the opportunity to build their own clientele or work for someone else?

– Here it is important to understand what the customer is, Mykkänen says. – Many people think that the courier’s customer is the one who ordered food, but it is not so in our case. Wolt is a customer of a courier. And a courier may have other customers like Foodora, Yango or Uber. And there’s nothing stopping you from making your own deals with a restaurant. He is completely free to build his own clientele.”

European Commission proposals on improving working conditions in platform work addresses exactly this question: when a platform worker is an employee and when not.

European dimension of platform work

European Commission has now provided for a communication, proposal for a directive and guidelines concerning collective bargaining, which will all proceed to wider scrutiny. The key issue in the process has been employment status for people working through digital labour platforms. The European Commission has set responsibilities and obligations clearly on the side of digital platforms in leaving rebuttal of the presumption of employment to them.

The relevance of the proposal will relate to the prior regulatory framework of the markets as well as other national policies. For example, unlike food delivery, the taxi sector has stronger traditions in Finland and rests on solo-entrepreneur model. Requiring any digital ride hailing platform (e.g. Uber) to become an employer for drivers may be a challenge. Drivers are free to choose if they what to work with an online platform or as a regular taxi with or without dispatcher service (unlike in the UK, Finnish drivers are not segregated in unequal categories). In our opinion, it is unlikely that employment provisions will hit hard those sectors and practices, where national history and practice has been based on entrepreneurship and sector specific regulation. Allowing the collective agreements for self-employed may strengthen driver-entrepreneurs position in relation to digital platforms. There will also be more challenges related to algorithmic management and other aspects of the proposal. It remains to be seen to what extent further discussions on employment status of platform workers may lead towards introduction of the 3rd employment category specific for platform work. However, as consequences of such measures could be far wider, we share the views of trade unions that the 3rd employment category should be avoided.

The crucial issue is how requirements for employment /non-employment are defined and on what grounds the fulfilment of two of them are set in practice in the context of national actions.

What is proposed?

On December 9th 2021, the European Commission announced not one but a package of initiatives for the regulation of platform economy. These include a Communication, a draft directive and draft guidelines for consultations. The proposed Directive on improving working conditions of platform work is based on Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and thus set under Article 151 on social policy, which in terms of Commission powers gives substantial scope for national level. DG Competition draft Guidance on the application of EU competition law to collective agreements supports the directive through refraining from action, though it remains draft for consultation. As the European Commission has finally spoken, the case provides an important testing ground for European policies on shaping its digital economy. The policy process will either show the potential for social Europe or the power of corporate and interest group lobbying on European level action.

The definition of the contractual relationship between the digital labour platform and a worker is based on the presumption of employment on the ground of control of work. This is defined further on the ground of fulfilment of at least two out of five criteria (Article 4.2). According to the proposal the worker is thus an employee when a platform is controlling the performance of worker by: “(1) effectively determining, or setting upper limits for the level of remuneration (Authors: i.e. setting prices or ceiling for charges) ; (2) requiring the person performing platform work to respect specific binding rules with regard to appearance, conduct towards the recipient of the service or performance of the work; (3) supervising the performance of work or verifying the quality of the results of the work including by electronic means; (4) effectively restricting the freedom, including through sanctions, to organise one’s work, in particular the discretion to choose one’s working hours or periods of absence, to accept or to refuse tasks or to use subcontractors or substitutes; (5) effectively restricting the possibility to build a client base or to perform work for any third party”.

How these criteria are defined in practice will be of major interest for the platform companies. They may seek to influence the final directive and make its focus or the interpretation of the requirements narrow. Platform companies could also try to interpret their own activities in ways which would leave them outside requirements. This can be achieved, for example, by defining control and the nature of their work in ways, which could escape the requirements. The politics is thus likely to result in a definition game on what is included under requirements, how these are understood and how company practices can be described and understood.

The definition game

Criticism of employment criteria remains a key complaint for Uber and Bolt, which have criticized the presumption of employment and tight criteria for classification of platforms workers as employees. In the opinion of representatives of these two companies the employment of ride-hailing drivers will “sacrifice the flexibility and efficiency of platform work”. The same argument Uber used in its campaign against Prop.22 in California in November 2020. This argument is rather weak as zero-hour contracts would allow for flexibility, justify the control, and offer the employee protections, which would not be available as self-entrepreneur. Employment status would move costs from drivers to Uber.

The challenge for the Commission proposal is that corporations are likely to seek a compromise from the “worker” status adopted in United Kingdom, which resonates with the California case. This is reflected in the Uber commentary emphasising that: “As countries including France have demonstrated, there is a better way and any EU-wide rules should allow drivers and couriers to retain the flexibility we know they value most, while allowing platforms to introduce more protections and benefits.” This articulation would move towards a solution where platform companies are supportive to a more market-based private sector driven task-based social security and insurance policies, which may give the platform companies also potential income and benefits from cooperation . For instance, Uber has already teamed with AXA.

The situation is slightly different with food deliveries as some companies have accepted employment status and problems are also more prominent with food delivery couriers. German-based Delivery Hero, which owns Foodora and a few other food delivery platforms in Europe, criticized the strict criteria for reclassification platform workers as employees. Foodora is known for applying very tight controls over delivery workers, while calling them independent contractors.It is likely that requirement on employment provisions would hit hardest on food delivery sector and practices involved with the industry, even though directive could bring some clarification that these companies can benefit.

Some companies have also sought for European level regulatory clarification. This is reflected in views of Just Eat and Wolt, which welcomed the EU Commission’s proposal. Just Eat already employs delivery workers. Wolt, more recently acquired by American Door Dash, is known to impose very light control over delivery workers. The positive spin is evident in the comments by Olli Koski, who described it as “a really good proposal that will truly improve the position of the couriers”. However, this positive approach was combined with Wolt’s talk of itself as “customer” to couriers, which may be of more importance in telling us where this line of argument is going. This hints more to a wish to move its operations under platform2business regulation, through establishing a situation where couriers are customers, which use the services provided by the platform. This implies self-employment instead employment.

The language game extends also to the positioning of what employee or entrepreneur would imply through polarising these as “full-time employment” vs.  “freedoms of an entrepreneur”, which is present in the reaction of platform company Bolt: “The proposal made by the Commission means that hundreds of thousands of ride-hailing drivers and delivery couriers would lose the opportunity of platform work, as platforms would be forced to shift to an exclusive full-time employment model.”  The polarisation of options thus creates an image, where ”flexibility” becomes possible only for entrepreneurs.


Not all platform workers are equal. For example, unlike taxi drivers the delivery workers are much more dependent on platforms and often more confused of their own worker status and their labour rights. They are called “partners” but treated as employees, with often lower net wage than a real employee and with extensive self-responsibility on social protection. In this respect the new EU regulation would clarify their status and offer needed protections. It is highly likely that in the process of adaptation of new directive the large platform companies will continue the language games, playing with definitions for workers-partners-customers. The false narrative of flexibility and efficiency vs employment is already circulating in the reactions to the proposal.

The Commission has offered a set of criteria for defining worker within the dichotomy of employee and genuinely self-employed. This will be a challenge for the platform companies with a danger that in the process of adaptation of this new regulation the tech companies and other lobbyists may water down some of the important novelties in the Commission’s proposals. Lobbyists may bring in compromise proposals which can resemble what previously was known as third category or merely shift the language on requirements enough to escape its reach. However, it is clear that for Social Europe the proposal has been one step ahead. Even if it has not been as large step as many hoped, it is still a reminder that Social Europe exists.  

In the next blog we will look into Commission’s proposals on algorithmic management in platform work.

Policy brief: Analysis of earnings-related social insurance payments in Finland. Employment status matters.

Download policy brief as PDF file

by Mikko Perkiö, Arseniy Svynarenko, and Meri Koivusalo

This policy brief asks what kind of differences exist between different types of employment in Finland in terms of earnings-related social insurance payments. In 2020, the number of employed people in Finland was 2,528,000. This consisted of 2,189,000 employees and 340,000 self-employed persons and unpaid family workers (Statistics Finland 2021). Among employees, temporary contracts are more widespread in Finland than in OECD counties generally, but the prevalence of part-time work in Finland is equal to the OECD average (OECD 2019, 58–59). More than 100,000 persons engaged in paid work with a zero-hours contract (Pärnänen 2019). Additionally, the number of self-employed entrepreneurs grew 1.5 fold between the turn of the millennium and 2018, when it reached 183,000 (Sutela & Pärnänen 2018). Those self-employed entrepreneurs who hold YEL-insurance (see below) have access to broader social protection compared to the rest of the self-employed.

The increase in platform-mediated work partly accounts for the increase in self-employment, particularly as platform work has spread to more traditional areas of work (Mattila 2020). Pesole et al. (2018, 18) provided a mid-range estimate among the studies assessing the prevalence of platform-mediated work, which found that 3.3% of adults in Finland had earned at least one fourth of their income through platforms. The current estimates are likely to be underestimated due to the fast growth of the platform work sector and the high share of migrant workers. It is also noteworthy that a quarter of self-employed entrepreneurs were in the lowest income decile (annual income below €10,000), while only 8% of employees fell within this decile (Sutela & Pärnänen 2018, 62; Statistics Finland 2016).

Self-employed persons are insured under the Self-Employed Persons’ Pensions Act (YEL), which affects not only pensions but also other social security benefits (Finnish Centre for Pensions 2021). Entrepreneurial activities must be insured if the work input of the self-employed person (aged 18–67 and resident in Finland) is valued at more than €8,064 per year and their work as an entrepreneur continues for at least four consecutive months (Ilmarinen 2021). The available tax data shows that about 200,000 self-employed workers are not covered by the YEL insurance, as they do not meet the above criteria. Some of them are part-time or full-time employed and may have access to employment related insurance. It has been estimated that only 10,000 of non-YEL insured self-employed have no other earned income (MSAH 2019: 23, 56-57).

Earnings-related social insurance plays a significant role in Finland’s social security system (Kela 2021). In the case of employment, both the employer and the employee pay contributions to the various schemes. The government contributes varying shares of the cost depending on the scheme. Among the schemes, insurance against occupational accidents and occupational disease is solely funded by the employer, not by the employee.

The following table presents the main forms of work-related social insurance and the contribution costs for employers, employees, and self-employed entrepreneurs. The purpose of the table is to facilitate cost comparisons of social security contributions between classifications of worker status. The classification of platform-mediated work has been contested across the EU. An estimate of employer costs in Finland for a food delivery worker who is defined as an employee is about 34.4 % of salary costs added to the salary, applying 1.9% for unemployment insurance (the rate for a large company) and assuming that the person is in the highest category of risk (premium 5%, TVK 2021) for occupational accidents and occupational diseases insurance (which is likely for food delivery work) and that holiday pay is included at the lower 9% level. The social security payment for the employee (aged 17–52) is 10.6%, but the employer pays the employee holiday benefits to the value of 9% of the employee’s salary. The platform company can save this 34.4% on wages if the social insurance costs are shifted to the contractor or self-employed person. We can use this to estimate how much of the costs could be shifted. If a delivery worker would earn about €18,000 per year after their work-related expenses but before personal taxes, the savings for the platform company would be more than €6,000 per worker. Correspondingly, this shift places an extra burden on the self-employed person compared to the cost burden if he or she were an employee.

A self-employed person would pay 35% social insurance costs without holiday pay. Adding the minimal value of an annual holiday (9%), a self-employed entrepreneur would pay 44%. This can be compared with an employee’s burden of 10.6% of the costs, which, if we deduct his or her gains of 9% holiday benefits, falls to a total share of pay of 1.6% for similar income-related social security. Correspondingly, a self-employed entrepreneur would need to spend around 40% of their wage to reach the same level of social security as a salaried worker. This analysis focuses on the big picture, without examining the details of the schemes. However, it should be noted that a new entrepreneur receives a discount of 22% for his or her pension expenses for 48 months, and all entrepreneur’s pension payments are tax deductible (Uusyrityskeskus 2021). An employee’s pension payments are also tax deductible. This is more relevant for those earning higher incomes and paying higher taxes. Furthermore, in Finland, health insurance under social insurance covers a sickness allowance for lost income for a maximum number of 300 days as result of illness but does not cover the cost of health care.

This analysis shows that employment status has a significant impact on earnings-related social security payments in Finland.

Table: Earnings-related social insurance payments in Finland. Click the table to enlarge (opens in a new tab).

We thank Elina Holmas, at Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center, for comments on the draft.

Table sources

Columns 2-5 (marked grey) source: Ilmarinen (2021) Employment Insurance Company.

Columns 6-8 on contributions: Ministry for Health and Social Affairs (2021), unless other source is specified

Other sources and references

Annual Holidays Act 162/2005

Finnish Centre for Pensions (2021). Statutory social insurance contributions in Finland in 2021.

FIWH ( 2021) Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Use and costs of family-related leaves (in Finnish)

FWCC (2021) Finnish Workers’ Compensation Center. AND

IF (2021) Examples of accident and injury insurance cost. (In Finnish) (Tapaturmavakuutuksen hintaesimerkit) (If is a private insurance company)

Kela (2021) The Social Insurance Institution of Finland. Social Security in Finland.

Mattila, M. (2020). Platform Workers’ Rights in Finland: Good Intentions, Too Little Progress. Mutual Learning Programme, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Peer Review on Platform Work-Finland. European Commission, Brussels. Pdf available at

MSAH (2019) Yrittäjän työeläketurvan kehittäminen. Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriön raportteja ja muistioita 2019:23

OECD (2019), OECD Employment Outlook 2019: The Future of Work, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Pesole, A., Urzí Brancati, M.C., Fernández-Macías, E., Biagi, F., & González Vázquez, I. (2018). Platform Workers in Europe Evidence from the COLLEEM Survey, EUR 29275 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. ISBN 978-92-79-87996-8, doi:10.2760/742789, JRC112157.

Pärnänen, A. (2019) Nollatuntisopimuksella työskentelee hyvin sekalaista sakkia. 3.6.2019.

Statistics Finland (2016) Suomen virallinen tilasto (SVT): Tulonjaon kokonaistilasto [verkkojulkaisu].ISSN=1797-3279. Tuloerot 2016, 2. Tulokehitys tulokymmenyksittäin

Statistics Finland (2021). Labour market.   

Sutela, H. & Pärnänen, A. (2018). Yrittäjät Suomessa 2017. Helsinki: Tilastokeskus. Pdf available

TVK (2021) Keskimääräiset vakuutusmaksut vuonna 2021.

Uusyrityskeskus (2021) Guide – Becoming an Entrepreneur in Finland. Let’s Make Your Business Succeed. Available at


Mikko Perkiö, Dr., senior researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere,

Arseniy Svynarenko, Dr., senior researcher, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere,

Meri Koivusalo, Professor of Global Health and Development, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere,

Research project Uberisation Influencing Working Conditions: Rights, Regulation and Redistribution in Helsinki, St Petersburg and London (RRR Uber) is lead by Prof. Meri Koivusalo at the University of Tampere and it is funded by the Academy of Finland, 2019-2021. Website


HS Vieraskynä: Alustatyön sääntelyssä tulisi suojella heikompaa osapuolta. Mikko Perkiö ja Meri Koivusalo

Delivery worker in Helsinki

Helsingin Sanomat, 20.08.2021

(alkuperäinen teksti)

Niin kutsutun työn kolmannen kategorian mahdollistaminen voisi kannustaa yrityksiä ulkoistamiseen ja vastuun siirtämiseen työnsuorittajille.

Alustatyön pelisäännöt vaativat uudistamista. Alustavälitteiseen työhön liittyvät oikeudet ja työnsuorittajien sosiaaliturva ovat puutteellisia. Euroopan unionissa on käynnissä useita merkittäviä alustatyötä, kilpailua, digitalisaatiota ja sosiaalisia oikeuksia koskevia esityksiä. Suomessa työneuvosto on ottanut kantaa alustatyön tekijöiden asemaan, samoin Eläketurvakeskus ja Tapaturmavakuutuskeskus.

EU-tasolla uudistusten olisi mahdollista parantaa alustatyötä tekevien ja yksinyrittäjien sosiaaliturvaa, mutta useiden uusien avausten seurauksena voi olla myös työelämän ehtojen heikentyminen. Näin voi käydä, jos alustatyöhön luodaan yrittäjän ja palkansaajan väliin niin sanottu työn tekemisen kolmas kategoria. Tämä sijoittaisi työnsuorittajan palkkatyön ja yrittäjyyden väliin. Tutkimukseemme haastattelemamme asiantuntijat niin EU:ssa kuin Suomessa suhtautuvat kolmanteen kategoriaan kriittisesti.

Sosiaaliturvan uudistamisen ohella asiaa käsitellään Euroopan komissiossa kilpailun ja sisämarkkinoiden alalla. Kolmas kategoria ei lisäisi ennustettavuutta, mutta toisi kaksi uutta rajapintaa työsuhteen harmaan alueen määrittelyyn.

Kolmannen kategorian työhön voisi liittyä erillinen kevyempi sosiaaliturva, joka siirtäisi vastuuta heikommassa asemassa oleville työnsuorittajille ja vapaaehtoisten toimien varaan.

Kolmannen kategorian työn ja ”kevyen sosiaaliturvan” yhdistelmä voisi kannustaa työnantajia ulkoistamiseen ja velvoitteiden siirtoon työnantajilta työnsuorittajille. Näin tapahtuu myös alustatyön nykyisissä kiistellyissä yhteistyökumppanuuksissa, joissa työnsuorittaja on tosiasiassa yrittäjä.

Alustatyöhön liittyy uhka kahden kerroksen työmarkkinoista. Maahanmuuttajat ja nuoret tekevät näkyvintä alustatyötä ruokalähetteinä ja kuljetuspalveluissa. Heidän työllistymistään pidetään alustatyön keskeisenä hyötynä, mutta heillä ei aina ole tietoa tai kokemusta työntekijälle kuuluvasta suojelusta. Sen sijaan, yrittäjien vakuutuksiin liittyvä vapaaehtoisuus johtaa usein alivakuuttamiseen.

Alustatyötä tekevien määrää pidetään Suomessa toistaiseksi vähäisenä. Pandemian aikana työt ja palvelut ovat kuitenkin siirtyneet yhä useammin verkkoon. Alustatalouden ja sen työelämän ehtojen määrittelyssä päätetään niistä puitteista, joissa yhä kansainvälisemmät alustayhtiöt kehittävät toimintaansa ja hakevat ratkaisuja ennen kaikkea EU-tasolta. Alustayhtiöiden mahdollisuudet osallistua ja vaikuttaa päätöksentekoon ovat merkittävästi paremmat kuin työnsuorittajilla. Vaarana on, että yhtiöt pääsevät kuin kettu kanatarhassa määrittämään alustatyön sääntelyn keskeisiä keinoja, lähtökohtia ja tavoitteita.

Alustatyössä yksinyrittäjän tai työnsuorittajan ja alustayhtiön tai työnantajan välillä on merkittävä tiedon ja vallan epäsuhta. Työnsuorittaja allekirjoittaa alustayhtiön vakiosopimuksen. Alustayhtiö hallinnoi työtä algoritmilla, jonka toimintaperiaatteen vähäinen läpinäkyvyys ja ymmärrettävyys ovat nostaneet kritiikkiä samoin kuin alustojen tiedonkeruu ja yksityisyys.

Nykyinen käytäntö luo työtä tarjoaville alustayhtiölle mahdollisuuden profiloitua välittäjinä toimiviksi alustayhtiöksi ilman työnantajavelvoitteita. Tällöin vastuu, riski ja kustannukset siirtyvät alustatalouden heikommalle osapuolelle eli työnsuorittajalle. Osa alustatalouden toimijoista on halunnut myös lisätä yhteistyötä yksityisten vakuutustuottajien kanssa tavalla, joka voi rapauttaa työeläkejärjestelmän perustaa sekä lakisääteisten vakuutusten merkitystä tilanteessa, jossa alivakuuttaminen on jo nyt yleistä.

Suomen sosiaaliturvaa uudistava komitea haluaa edistää yksilökohtaisuutta ja kannustavuutta sekä selkiyttää sosiaaliturvaa. Tulisi kuitenkin varmistaa, ettei EU:ssa vireillä olevien uudistusten kautta mahdollisteta vahvemmin riskin siirtoa työnantajilta työnsuorittajille ja avata kannustimia ulkoistamiselle. Työelämän ehtojen reiluuden on oltava tärkeä tavoite paitsi kansallisella tasolla ja osana EU:n sosiaalipolitiikkaa, myös suhteessa EU:n sisämarkkinoihin ja kilpailupolitiikkaan.

Mikko Perkiö ja Meri Koivusalo

Perkiö on yliopistotutkija ja Koivusalo on professori Tampereen yliopistossa.

Kuva: Arseniy Svynarenko

Fixing the regulation to clarify the status of platform workers

Taxi stop in Helsinki

by Arseniy Svynarenko


The UK Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers weren’t self-employed and must be treated as workers. Uber promises to maintain flexibility of the drivers and give them some new rights and protections. In every country Uber adjust its practices to local legal context, sometimes exploding the grey areas in legislation. It takes a lot of effort for unions and time for governments to fix the regulation and clarify the obligations of platforms, status of platform workers, and their rights.  

A milestone for platform economy? 

On February 19, 2021, after the UK Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers weren’t self-employed and must be treated as workers by Uber. Right after this ruling Jamie Heywood, Uber’s Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe commented that, Court’s decision was “focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016”.  (BBC, 2021).  A month later Uber announced introducing Worker Employment Benefits to all 70,000 self-employed drivers: “You will continue to have total flexibility, meaning you can choose if, when and where you work, while accessing new rights and protections.” (Uber, 2021) 

   These new rights and protections will include: 

  1. the minimum wage (the National Living Wage) for the working time that starts from accepting a trip on the app to the completion of the trip. 
  1. right to paid holiday (drivers will receive a payment of 12.07% of driver’s earnings)  
  1. Uber will automatically enrol drivers into a pension plan with contributions shared by Uber and a worker. 

The new practises adopted by Uber in the UK only partly comply with Supreme Court’s decision. The Supreme Court ruled that Uber should recognize drivers as “workers” from the time they log on to the app, until they log off. Instead, Uber limited the working time to the period between driver accepting a ride till the completion of the ride. This means that time between the rides is not a paid working time. On the other hand, it also means that drivers have kept a freedom to choose to work in short gigs with multiple ride-haling platforms and other jobs as regular taxi drivers elsewhere. Their working time with Uber will not overlap with other jobs. Most likely, the full implementation of the Supreme Court decision in regards the working time would lead to the introduction of fixed work shifts by Uber and hereby further reduce already very limited job flexibility. 

It is important to keep in mind that the UK Supreme Court ruling directly pointed out the limited rights of drivers: drivers couldn’t decide the fare, or influence the contract terms, drivers were penalized for rejecting the rides, and the platform would control them through algorithms (ratings, vehicle requirements, photo controls of driver’s identity, documents and vehicle). It is unlikely that Uber will address these issues because the algorithmic control and task allocation is in the core of its technology. And ride-hailing and food delivery platform technology is built on the assumptions that there is a massive supply of cheap and highly flexible labour force, while most of responsibilities for accompanying expenses are shifted to these workers. Labour platforms strive towards monopolisation of markets, reducing the cost of services and expanding of customer base.  

As a result, the digital platforms too often treat workers as employees while continuing to refer to them as independent contractors and glamorizing individual urban entrepreneurship. In an interview to BBC4 James Farrar, who together with Yaseen Aslam and the App Drivers & Courier Union, took Uber to an employment tribunal in 2016) said: “These better terms and conditions … will attract many more people on the platform, … we could see flooding of drivers and vehicles on the streets. … A better regulation from the side of the Department of labour is needed.” (BBC 4, 2021) 

Indeed, lean platforms such as Uber exploit the gaps in legislation (Srnicek, 2017, Rosenblat, 2018) that allow to minimize platform’s expenses on labour force, shift most of responsibilities to an army of “flexible” workers-partners. The UK’s Supreme Court ruling to classify Uber drivers as workers may bring some benefits to drivers but falls short of resolving probably one of central the problems in the platform work: clarity of workers occupational identity. Furthermore, the response by the Uber to the Supreme Court’s ruling probably aggravated the problem of workers identity. Uber gave drivers access to some of benefits of employment without concluding employment contracts. Uber continues the same practices of algorithmic control and workers-contractors have virtually no influence on fares, contract terms. There is no transparency on how work methods and ratings effect the access to work. The ride-hailing continues to identify drivers as “self-employed for tax purposes” while treating them as employees. Apparently, the UK’s labour law allows to do so. As for workers, their confused occupational identity may result in low job satisfaction and not knowing own rights and obligations.  

Uber excluded delivery workers from the new arrangement in the UK and thereby aggravated the inequalities in platform work. The delivery workers remain less protected in the UK and in many other countries. 

Occupational identities of taxi drivers and delivery workers in Finland.    

Across the globe the numerous court cases and growing public debates about the status of platform workers (also their rights and protections) may indicate the scale of disruption on labour markets. Some Nordic countries could serve as examples of how the national and local regulation can bring more clarity to platform worker’s status.  

The labour market and taxi industry are tightly regulated in Finland. Uber adjusted its business model to Finnish regulatory setting as it did in Norway and in many other countries. In Norway Uber operates in a higher segment of limousine car hire (Uber Black) and all drivers are classified as employees working on a limousine company’s cars (Oppegaard, 2021). In Finland Uber drivers usually register as entrepreneurs and typically work with own or leased car. A small fraction of drivers has contracts with Uber Fleet Partners and these partner companies are middlemen between workers and the platform. As licensed taxi drivers in Finland, Uber drivers can work with any platform or as traditional taxi drivers taking customers from taxi stops (although they often get a cold reception from taxi drivers who work only with traditional taxi operators). Their occupational identity is taxi entrepreneurs, the responsibilities are clear for them, and job opportunities are not limited by a ride-hailing platform. At the same time the professional associations of taxi drivers may not be eager to treat equally all taxi entrepreneurs.    

The great uncertainty  

Not all platform workers are in the same situation. Our research suggests that in contrast to taxi drivers, many delivery workers are uncertain about the character of relation with the platforms. A food delivery platform may have a freelancer contract with a courier, call him/her as a “partner” or “rider”, and yet control the worker if he/she was an employee.  Thus, the workers are either confident that the platform is “employer” or confused about own status. In 2020 on the request by the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health authority the Labour Council examined the working conditions of delivery workers and concluded that characteristics of the employment relationship were meat, and the food couriers were employed by the courier companies. Yet in spring 2021, two main food delivery platforms that operate in Finland haven’t made substantial changes in their courier employment practices.  Neither trade unions demonstrated any significant influence on how the platforms treat their workers.  

In March 2021 in the neighboring Sweden the food delivery platform Foodora (operates also in Finland) has signed a collective agreement with the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union Transportarbetareförbundet. The agreement improves the work conditions of 2000 couriers who use bicycles and scooters (and does not cover those who use cars). These workers will be entailed to fixed hourly pay and yearly salary increase, overwork and weekend bonuses, compensation for clothing, bicycle maintenance, and medicines (Helsingin Sanomat, 2021). It is important to mention that in Sweden the delivery workers of Foodora have employee status. Similar processes take place in other Nordic countries. For instance, the Danish trade union 3F and the employers’ organisation Dansk Erhverv have concluded a national sectoral agreement for Just Eat’s delivery riders (ETF, 2021). Earlier in 2019 the Norwegian Fellesforbundet and Foodora concluded a collective bargaining agreement recognizing the employment relationship between couriers and the food delivery platform (ITF, 2019).  

More public discussions are needed.  

The expansion of labour platforms to broader spheres of the labour market means that there is a growing significance of trade union representation for platform workers. Labour platforms tend to capitalize on gaps in legislation and uncertainties of occupational identities of workers. In Finland, platform workers are often uncertain if they are entrepreneurs, employees or someone in-between (workers). Trade unions may play an important role developing adequate regulation of platform work, protecting the rights of workers, and reduction of emerging inequalities caused by the variations in the status of workers of different platforms.  

The examples of ride-hailing and food delivery platforms often can demonstrate how digital platforms construct the uncertainty of occupational identities of their workers. Therefore, there is a need for continuing a broader public discussion on the status of platform workers, on their rights and protections. 


BBC (2021). Uber drivers are workers not self-employed, Supreme Court rules. February 19, 2021. 

BBC 4 (2021). Uber driver pay: What it means for the gig economy   

ETF (2021) 3F secures ground-breaking national sectoral agreement for delivery riders. ETF- European Transport Workers’ Federation  

ITF (2019). Union win! Historic agreement for food delivery workers.  

Helsingin Sanomat (2021). Foodora teki Ruotsissa historiallisen työehtosopimuksen, joka takaa lähetille vajaan 10 euron tuntipalkan – Wolt selvittää toisenlaisia, HS, 25.03.2021 malleja.  

Oppegaard, S. (2020). Regulating Flexibility: Uber’s Platform as a Technological Work Arrangement. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies11(1). 

Rosenblat, A. (2018). Uberland. University of California Press. 

Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform Capitalism. Polity.   

Uber (2021). Worker Employment Benefits.   

We are inviting private hire drivers from London to take part in our research


Our research team is looking for drivers from London who are willing to share their experiences of working with Uber or other ride-hailing platforms. If you are private hire driver in London and use Uber or other ride-haling apps, please, contact us by email, text message, WhatsApp or Twitter message. We will be happy to have an opportunity to interview you over Zoom, Skype (or WhatsApp, or other suitable messengers). The interviews are anonymous and usually take about 45-60minutes. We offer an Amazon gift card as compensation for the driver’s time used for an interview

You can learn about our research project on our website  

Contact information:


Phone /WhatsApp: + 358 50 318 25 23


Regards, Arseniy Svynarenko and the Uberisation team. 

Sivistysvaltion pääkaupungin ytimeen pitää varmistaa asialliset taksipalvelut. HS, lukijan mielipide

Asema-aukion taksijonoon kannattaisi ottaa mallia Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasemalta.

Taksialan uudistuksessa alalle on tullut paljon uusia toimijoita. Ohentunut sääntely ja raivoisa kilpailu asiakkaista aiheuttavat levottomuutta, samalla kun korona on vähentänyt kyytejä.

Taksilain uudistuksessa tavoitteena oli lisätä asiakkaan valinnanvapautta. Nykyisin eroja onkin niin tilaustavoissa, hinnoissa kuin tunnettuudessakin.

Moni kokee turvattomuutta ottaessaan taksia Helsingin Asema-aukion taksitolpalta. Siellä on haastavaa sovittaa kaksi periaatetta yhteen: jonotus ja asiakkaan valinnanvapaus. Jonossa eteenpäin pääsy parantaa taksinkuljettajan mahdollisuuksia saada asiakas, koska osa asiakkaissa ottaa jonossa ensimmäisen.

Mutta osa asiakkaista valitsee taksin esimerkiksi firman tunnettuuden, hinnan, auton tai kuljettajan perusteella tolppajonosta taaempaa. Myös tälle asiakkaalle ja autolle on taattava esteetön ja asianmukainen reitti kohti määränpäätä.

Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasemalla onnistuttiin luomaan asialliset puitteet taksien valinnanvapaudelle usean jonon menetelmällä. Myös Tampereen rautatieasemalla taksin valinta sujuu.

Miten varmistaa sivistysvaltion pääkaupungin ytimeen asialliset menettelytavat kuljetuspalveluun? Moninaistunut ja jännitteinen taksiala ei näytä pystyvän itsesäätelyn keinoin varmistamaan turvallista valinnanvapautta, siksi viranomaisten olisi tarpeellista tukea tilannetta Helsingin rautatieasemalla. Selkeät käytännöt ja hyvät tavat voivat myös vähentää rasismia. Turvallinen taksinkäyttö on koko alan etu. 

Kun taksialalla on yhdestä pakosta päästy, ei alalle kannata päästää syntymään uusia pakkoja ja blokkeja. Jonojen käsirysyn sijaan hinnoittelu tarjoaa mahdollisuuden reiluun kilpailuun. Kaupunkien taksinkäytöllä on kasvun varaa, kunhan arkitaksista tehdään riittävän edullinen.

Mikko Perkiö

Arseniy Svynarenko

taksialan tutkijoita, Tampereen yliopiston RRR-Uber-tutkimusryhmä


COVID-19 & Delivery Workers: health risks and essential help in the same package

Delivery blog

Mikko Perkiö, Arseniy Svynarenko, Benta Mbare and Victor Savi.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures adopted by many governments and cities resulted in slowing down urban life, closing businesses, and locking people into their homes. Social distancing works for public good and it increases the need for efficient grocery and food delivery services. These services help solving public health problems though they include critical health and social protection aspects themselves.

Increased demand for grocery delivery

Most typically, the ‘flatten the curve’ policy included various limitations on mobility of people (without interrupting transportation of goods), closure of educational premises and other public venues. Private services such as restaurants and bars can either be ordered to complete closure or their kitchens are allowed to serve food to clients at home through various delivery platforms. Many countries, regions and cities have gone into a complete lockdown or even curfews. The reports published recently by Google or Apple demonstrate COVD-19 epidemic affected urban mobility in various parts of the world.

Picture 1. Changes in urban mobility on March 29th, 2020 when compared to a median value for the corresponding day of the week, in early February in Lazio region (Italy), Greater London (UK), New York (USA), Uusimaa region (Finland) Stockholm County (Sweden). Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report).

When people are advised to stay at their homes for longer period of time this eventually leads to an increase in demand for delivery services: someone has to bring groceries, ready food, medicine and other online purchases to people at their homes. In the US, Russia, and some other countries the governments have defined delivery work as part of essential critical infrastructure at the time of crisis and allowed delivery people (who can confirm that they carry on their assignments) freely move disregards the lockdowns (CISA, 2020)

Continue reading at Alusta.

Taxi platforms respond to COVID-19

by Arseniy Svynarenko and Mikko Perkiö

SARS-COVID-19 has significantly slowed  down economies and stalled life in many cities across the globe. This hits very badly millions of taxi-drivers, among them Uber and other platform drivers whose social rights and security are least protected. The platforms react to the crisis in different ways.

Pandemic hit hard both global and local economies

The SARS-COVID-19 epidemic started at the times of reported emerging trade barriers, escalating geopolitical tensions. The World Economic Forum (2019) describes how weakened international collaboration damages collective will to tackle global risks. In December 2019 the growing epidemic caused closure of many Chinese factories and created difficulties for corporations, which rely on Chinese industrial capabilities. In early 2020 the pandemic has hit the international travel, small and big businesses across the globe. And by the middle of March the grim economic projections foresee a global Corona recession.

One of the first measures to tackle the spread of the virus was restriction of people’s mobility. Governments across the world started to screen or ban travelling and travellers first from specific and then more broadly. National borders have been closed and in epidemic areas these measures moved into more severe restrictions of mobility between regions and in restricted areas. Social distancing has resulted in governments and businesses asking people to stay at home, to work remotely when possible, and avoid social contacts. Shopping malls, concert halls, and theatres are closed. Trade fairs, conferences and entertainment events have been cancelled. To enforce nation-wide quarantines some countries (for instance, Slovakia and Czech Republic) banned passenger transportation by taxi platforms allowing only grocery delivery.

The politics and reactions by governments for control of COVID-19 pandemic were brought up by Salla Atkins and Meri Koivusalo. Here we focus on implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on platform economy workers, zoom on taxi-drivers. We analyze also how platform providers have reacted to the epidemic.

Taxi sector and pandemic wave

The COVID-19 pandemic with a dramatic decrease in social activities and consumption has an immediate impact on most business sectors, including transportation of people. Taxi companies estimate 80-90 % decline in numbers of taxi rides within a week between 13-20 March. Finland’s Taxi Association officially “Suomen Taksiliitto” demands local and state responsibility for income compensation for taxi entrepreneurs, who suffer from the suddenly ended school transport as one major aspect of the reduced mobility. Media reported on 31 March that the government of Finland had introduced a flat sum of 2000 euros benefit scheme for those solo-entrepreneurs and freelancers, whose business is substantially weakened by the Corona crisis. There is funding for 50 000 persons. The implementation of the scheme at the municipality level is under process. Furthermore, the government of Finland will extend unemployment benefits temporarily available for the entrepreneurs, although the final details about the scheme are to be decided. Both these schemes help entrepreneur-workers, like Uber drivers, to cope with their severe business losses in this unusual situation.

Read more on Alusta…

Will uberisation become a means to shrug off employer responsibilities?

A research project underway at Tampere University examines whether uberisation will continue to have a positive impact on the taxi industry in Russia and to what extent it will gain ground after Finland’s taxi industry reform.

Uber has been expected to revolutionise personal transport, but in reality the effects of uberisation have been strongly dependent on locality. The most common consequence of uberisation seems to be that companies are using legal loopholes to shirk their responsibilities as employers, which is most often seen in the USA.
Uber was established in the USA in 2009 to connect taxi drivers with potential customers through a taxi hailing app. The company has since gone global. Uber and Airbnb, an online marketplace for hospitality services, are examples of platform businesses: they provide a platform that brings together providers and consumers of a particular service.

Uberisation has so far demonstrably increased the use of taxi services and reduced the size of the shadow economy in Russia. In Finland, Uber rides could potentially fill the gaps left by the failed taxi industry reform carried out under the Sipilä administration.    

A research project exploring the effects of uberisation on the regulatory landscape in Finland, Russia and the UK has been launched at Tampere University. The researchers will look into Uber and other similar platform taxi services in relation to regulation and working conditions in Helsinki, London and Saint Petersburg.

Director of the project, Professor Meri Koivusalo suspects that platform businesses such as Uber may be basking in undeserved glory and may actually be just run-of-the-mill companies.  

”If there is nothing new and exciting about the platform economy, then it can be regulated as any other business and will not reshape our welfare state as much as we have been given to understand,” Koivusalo says. 

Taxi reform could ramp up demand for Uber

What could be fuelling the demand for Uber rides in Finland is the failed taxi industry reform that was carried out during the premiership of Juha Sipilä. The reform raised prices and resulted in a marked decline in the availability of taxi services in rural areas.   
”The reform could push customers to use Uber, because it is predictable and provides upfront pricing,” Meri Koivusalo says.
Responsible researcher in the project Mikko Perkiö says that Finland took a step backwards with the taxi industry reform. People are now expected to spend time looking for the best deal and negotiating fares when all they want is a safe and reliable ride to their destination.  

With Minister Anne Berner at the helm, Finnish policymakers believed that the liberalisation of the taxi market would benefit everyone. The reform promised to drive prices down and improve services. In fact, the opposite occurred.   
”Finland followed Sweden’s lead – and made the same mistakes. The reform leaves the door open for Uber but hopefully the trade-off will not be too costly in terms of labour standards,” Perkiö says.    

Meri Koivusalo/ Kuva: Jonne Renvall

Professor Meri Koivusalo is heading a project that explores the regulation of the platform economy and the effects of uberisation on labour standards. Photo: Jonne Renvall

Uber’s arrival reduced Russia’s shadow economy

In Russia, where it has long been customary that anyone with a car can offer a ride to anyone hailing a cab at a street corner, uberisation has increased the use of licensed taxis.

Mikko Perkiö quotes the results of a study carried out in Russia indicating that the number of taxi rides within Moscow increased dramatically in the 2010s, from 50,000 in 2010 to more than 700,000 in 2017. This growth is largely due to more rides being booked using mobile apps.

Another Russian study demonstrates that 90 per cent of Uber drivers operating in Russia’s major cities are satisfied with their driving experience, although 40 per cent of them are considering a job change. Two thirds of the drivers had been unemployed before joining Uber.   

”The arrival of Uber – which merged with the taxi service of the Russian IT behemoth Yandex in 2018 – and other ride-sharing companies that utilise real-time vehicle location tracking has not only improved passenger safety but also increased predictability. Now we know our cab driver, route and fare upfront. Uber seems to have been an optimal solution for cities where unlicensed taxi services have previously been rampant,” Perkiö says.

Independent contractors versus full-time employees

In the USA where employers shoulder the lion’s share of healthcare and social security costs, uberised business models have emerged as a way to shrug off employer responsibilities. The effects are less strongly felt in many European countries where these costs do not take such a heavy toll on employers.

Still, the loudest Uber critics are found in Europe. The researchers reckon that this may partly be due to trade unions being stronger in Europe than in the USA.

According to a study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä three years ago, uberisation has reduced taxi fares, increased the demand for rides and boosted economic growth around the world. The study at Tampere University focuses on regulation and the working conditions of drivers.    

”We are keeping an open mind to both the negative and positive effects of uberisation,” sums up Meri Koivusalo.

Uber is basically an application, a technology platform that could also be used to achieve and maintain regulatory compliance. Koivusalo points out that this is a perfectly feasible option.

”We need to ask whether national authorities have enough regulatory leeway in this area or whether it will be necessary for countries to adhere to international regulations. Or will international companies be expected to adjust their activities to comply with national law?” 

Mikko Perkiö/ Kuva: Heikki Laurinolli
Researcher Mikko Perkiö says that the effects of uberisation are largely dependent on locale. Photo: Heikki Laurinolli

Bigger employment issue than Uber

Uber is a part of the platform and sharing economy that extends far and wide from rental market to delivery services.
“The same principles are seen in the social and healthcare sector. There are visions to apply a similar platform approach to the development of hospitals and even universities,” Meri Koivusalo says.

She doubts whether the platform economy will in reality pose such an inescapable threat to the foundations of our welfare state as is often claimed.

“There is no reason why platform economy could not be regulated as any commercial activity. It comes down to policy-makers to decide whether they are willing to at least try.”  

Mikko Perkiö compares Uber drivers to freelancers and self-employed people who usually do not have a similar safety net to fall back on as salaried employees. Self-employed workers make up about 15 per cent of all workforce in the EU. In the UK, the gig economy employs one third of workers under the age of 30. The platform economy is a catch-all term that encompasses a variety of jobs ranging from Uber drivers to food delivery couriers who may be struggling to make ends meet.   

The platform economy is a broad and complex phenomenon and not all the related problems are associated with social security and poor working conditions. Perkiö points out that most Airbnb hosts are middle-class homeowners or hospitality entrepreneurs. The home-sharing company has been widely accused in Europe for hurting the hotel industry and driving up rental prices but has not been blamed for eroding labour standards.

It is possible to regulate the platform economy

Even before the current research project was launched, Meri Koivusalo has kept a close eye on the amount of regulatory leeway that the EU provides to individual cities in Europe. This leeway will have a major effect on the regulation of the platform economy.

”The most important question may be whether regulatory controls can be imposed at the national or European level. It is likely that most of the political wrangling will have to take place between multinational companies and the EU, which may be challenging for the EU.”

According to Koivusalo, the emergence of the platform economy poses new regulatory challenges but also opens up new possibilities.    

“In the future, platform businesses may be regulated differently and from different perspectives than regular companies. These companies may try to give the impression that they cannot be obligated to do anything because they are not employers. This may be a conscious political choice.”

The project headed by Koivusalo received funding from the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Culture and Society last spring. The project is set to continue until the end of 2021. Researcher Arseniy Svynarenko will carry out research in Saint Petersburg.

Text: Heikki Laurinolli