Can digital platforms enabling the sale of second-hand clothes offer a new route into formal work for young people?

There has been boom in digital retail platforms, like Depop (in the UK) and Jumia and Jiji.ng (in Africa), that allow people to buy and sell second-hand clothing.  This Round 1 Innovation Fund project explored to what extent they have potential to offer a sustainable income.

Research questions

  • How do digital second-hand clothing platforms enable young people’s employment and entrepreneurship in the digital economy?
  • How have these platforms created formal income streams for young people and what is the quality of this type of work?

Method

Interviews were conducted with 34 young digital entrepreneurs in the UK and Nigeria and as well as with a manager of a major  digital platform.

Key findings

It was found that – like any entrepreneurial endeavour – success and income is dependent on the degree of engagement with the platform and on time and resource commitment.

In the UK, only those who were able to break through as “top seller” felt it was sustainable; others saw it as a part-time role and a way to supplement income, and did not have the confidence to transition to a full-time role without guaranteed income.

In Nigeria, however, young people did see it a sustainable source of income in different ways. Students found it provided a reliable, part-time, independent source of income while studying, and with potential to scale after graduation. Others who are engaged in selling fulltime believe they experience some level of income sustainability because they are able to support their themselves and their families from their earnings.

There were examples of people in both the UK and Nigeria building fulltime careers and transitioning from online platforms to establishing physical store, creating their own ecommerce website. In both countries, young people’s involvement with digital platforms offered them opportunities for personal growth along with development of new and existing skills.

Researchers

Principal Investigator: Dr Ayomikun Idowu (University of Sussex)

Co-investigators: Akustina Morni (International Organisation of Employers)

Research Assistant: Monica Richards (University of Sussex)

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