It is no longer possible to imagine everyday life without the platform economy. However, socially just and sustainable solutions to the problems associated with the platform economy have not been sufficiently developed. Social protection in the age of an expanding platform economy is a challenge facing China and Germany.
The platform economy model threatens many achievements of the welfare state. While employers bear social responsibility for their employees in traditional employment relations, this is usually "outsourced" to the employees by the platforms. Instead of employing people, the platforms argue that they only buy services from self-employed individuals. The supposed self-employed are responsible for their own social security. Thus, the principle of the platform economy challenges the traditional definition of "employee" and "employer".
The rapid development of some platforms in recent years has been achieved on the premise that a large number of workers are excluded from labour protection and social security systems. In the long run, this will undermine sustainable labour relations. Some platform companies have achieved market dominance, even abused their power to unilaterally impose unfair work conditions.
Therefore, strengthening the protection for platform workers is the fundamental solution in order to address unfair competition in the labour market, curb market monopolies in the platform economy and maintain the social security system.
The present paper is a summary of our collective thinking and discussion process over the most part of 2022 and 2023. We hope the ideas in it can provide a valuable contribution for law makers, trade unions and academia. FES Shanghai welcomes any feedback and will continue to work on this subject.