Crowdworking and the employment of women

Prof. Dr. Michael Beckmann, Elisa Gerten, Lucas Trutwin

The rise of digitization has led to a new arrangement for doing work online: Crowdworking. This phenomenon of the digital economy describes the creation of digital goods and services by using human, informational, and physical resources. On online platforms, geographically dispersed contributors (i.e. the crowdworkers) can work together on a flexible open task proposed by a crowdsourcer (e.g., a company, an institution, group, or individual). The undertaking of the task leads to mutual benefits on both sides. The crowdworker will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, while the crowdsourcer will gain through the varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and output delivered by the crowdworkers. The co-creative efforts will gain in quality and complexity as the online environment that allows the work to take place, develops at a fast pace in its professionalism and maturity. Online platforms allow an efficient locus of control in the creation of goods and ideas maximizing the benefits of a top-down management and bottom-up production.

The phenomenon of crowdworking describes thus a distinct type of labor for which contributions and achievements are financially remunerated. So far, remuneration levels are highly varying, mostly very low, and strongly depending on the complexity of the task. Crowdworkers act as self-employed workers and they choose their working arrangements and working time on a free basis. The number of crowdworkers has been growing continuously and recent research shows that especially autonomy and flexibility render this new type of work very attractive. Depending on the type of digital labor, women are highly represented among the digital workers and one could speculate that crowdworking will favor women as it allows to work highly autonomous and thus to better link work and private life. However, a gender earnings gap still exists amongst crowdworkers. Even worse, family responsibilities and career breaks could push women to increase their crowdworking intensity and lower their overall wage.

In this research project, we want to analyze the motives of women to participate in this type of work and to find out how an intense use of crowdworking affects their motivation, satisfaction and well-being as well as their overall labor market outcomes. Our focus lies especially on women facing distinct career breaks due to family responsibilities. We consider for our analyses DACH countries and conduct a survey on a well-known German online platform. Our empirical results give us new insights on how women could benefit from doing work online relative to their labor market outcomes, but also on the risks women are facing while doing work online.

This project is funded by the Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Basel.

Master thesis on “Crowdworking and the employment of women” by Lucas Trutwin

The master thesis on "Crowdworking and the employment of women" has two main focuses: First, theoretical considerations on the phenomenon crowdworking and, in particular, why women take up this new type of work, have been analyzed. Secondly, an empirical analysis to investigate the impact of crowdworking on perceived job market opportunities of female crowdworkers has been conducted. The empirical analysis is based on newly collected data (December 2019 – January 2020) on female crowdworkers and their crowdworking activities. The survey has been conducted via the German microtask platform Clickworker GmbH. The participants received a financial incentive for their time spent completing the questionnaire. In the final evaluation, 289 observations were taken into account. The data provides information on the personal characteristics of female crowdworkers, their socio-demographical composition, crowdworking behavior, working hours, working conditions, motivation, stress levels, isolation, unemployment, employment prospects, and pay. First regressions are based on ordinary least squares (OLS) estimation model. Empirical results indicate so far that crowdworking activities are positively associated with labor market opportunities of female crowdworkers. Finally, implications for various stakeholders, such as for female workers, family and labor policy, unions and companies, are derived.