Digit Debates: Platform firms and the restructuring of work

12 May 2021



The increasing dissemination of digital tools and the diffusion of a pervasive digital infrastructure have sparked a transformation of modern societies towards digital economies, a central feature of which are platform firms. Premised upon network effects and the control of the flow of information converted into data points, they have become a disruptive force in the business landscape. In particular, the exclusive access to market information allows platform firms to compete in established industries on different terms than other market participants. Platform firms enter the service economy with business models that put existing service providers under pressure. Exploiting network effects, high financial prowess, the ongoing marketization of former state companies or highly regulated industries as well as rapidly increasing market shares of platform firms intensify existing trends of workplace fissuring. In the talk, I analyse these trends using case studies of Amazon logistics in the US, Germany and the UK. The comparison also points to factors, which might mitigate a further precarization of work, and the role of the welfare state.


Anke Hassel is Professor of Public Policy at the Hertie School. From 2016 to 2019 she was the Scientific Director of the WSI at the Hans Böckler Foundation. Anke Hassel has extensive international experience and scientific expertise in the fields of the labour market, social partnership, codetermination and the comparative political economy of developed industrial nations. She was an expert in the fact-finding committee on growth, prosperity and quality of life in the German Bundestag (2012-13); the expert commission on the future of the Hans Böckler Foundation (2015-17) and chairwoman of the expert group on Workers’ Voice and Good Corporate Governance in Transnational Companies in Europe (2015-2018). She has also been a member of the German Federal Government’s High-Tech Forum since January 2019.

Related reading

Felix Sieker. March 2021. Platform work and access to social protection across major European countries.

Anke Hassel and Felix Sieker. January 2021. Contested Terrain: three battlefields in which to study the digital economy.