Another key dimension of job quality is labour market security, which is closely linked to job stability. The evidence in this respect is nuanced, but clear. This is, however, the result of an ageing population, as a larger share of older workers in the workforce is mechanically associated with higher average tenure-levels. Once ageing is accounted for, job stability has decreased in the majority of OECD countries.
The trend is particularly evident among less educated workers and it is not exclusively concentrated among youth. Prime-age and older workers with lower levels of education have also experienced increased instability in their jobs. Turning to the link between trade and job quality, a number of competing factors are at play.
On the one hand, trade openness may be conducive to higher earnings. Indeed, there is evidence that export-driven industries tend to pay higher wages. The megatrends can also impact job quality by directly influencing working conditions and the quality of the working environment. With regard to trade, the main risk is that firms use GVCs to jettison workers in countries with high labour standards and move production to areas where labour standards are lower. For example, if welders in Germany see their jobs go to emerging economies with lower health and safety standards, global job quality may fall.
Such concerns find some support in the literature, but the existing evidence is still too limited to draw firm conclusions. If the latter effect could be strengthened, international trade could effectively widen global access to good jobs. Technological progress has considerable potential to improve working conditions.
Across a number of industries, tasks have been automated that formerly required hard physical labour, were often performed in strenuous or even dangerous conditions, and could increase stress and alienation. One clear illustration of how onerous tasks may disappear is the transformation of agriculture. Between and , the share of global employment in this sector fell from Many agricultural jobs were of very low quality, involving physically onerous and repetitive tasks, sometimes combined with abusive working conditions ILO,  and little access to social protection, training opportunities and collective representation.
Similarly, technology currently helps workers to perform some of the most dangerous and hazardous tasks in the manufacturing and construction sectors. This welcome development directly contributes to improving working conditions and safety at work. In some cases, however, technology in the workplace can reduce job quality.
Many cases of such developments exist throughout the economy, for example in industries like retail and logistics. Employees who work in the warehouses of large logistics companies can be micro-managed e.
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Such tight control standards have generated much controversy as they can directly harm job quality. Perverse effects of technology on autonomy and discretion are not limited to low-skilled workers. Recent studies find that interconnected devices afford professionals greater control over the pace and organisation of their work, but also create the expectation of constant availability by colleagues and clients, reducing discretion Mazmanian, Orlikowski and Yates, . Some countries have reacted against these changes. However, the literature is not unanimous in highlighting the negative aspects of technology on working conditions.
The rise of platform work has thrown a spotlight on the impact of technological progress on job quality. Platform work encompasses a broad range of activities, which have in common the use of online platforms to connect the demand and supply of particular services. In some cases, the function of the platform goes beyond its mediating role and includes providing workers with an online environment and with the necessary tools to conduct their work. One of the positive aspects of platform work is the increased efficiency of the matching process, which may help to alleviate problems such as frictional unemployment and skills mismatches.
In many OECD countries, unemployment coexists with firms recurrently complaining about not being able to find workers to fill vacancies. Another positive aspect of platform work, often cited by workers, is greater flexibility.
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While platform workers are often classified as self-employed and can in principle choose their own hours, demand may de facto be highly concentrated in certain parts of the day. Many workers cannot set their own pay rate, which is imposed by the platform, and face restrictions over other aspects of their work organisation, including the use of uniforms and stringent instructions regarding the way the work is carried out.
Finally, platform work allows for close monitoring and levels of micro-management that would be difficult to attain in the absence of the new technologies but which are by no means exclusive to platform work, as exemplified by the case of retail and logistics discussed above. While some of these factors may generate greater efficiency and productivity, benefiting consumers chiefly through lower prices, as well as higher service quality and availability , the result is that some if not much platform work may in fact be far from flexible and may not provide workers with the autonomy and discretion they might wish for.
The potential downsides of certain types of platform work are not limited to the risk of job strain and poor working conditions but also include the risk of low and uncertain earnings. Some platforms, for instance, operate globally across very different labour markets. These problems are not unique to platform work and they may apply to a different degree to many non-standard workers i. As such, they will be discussed below.
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While the jury is still out on the potential advantages and drawbacks of platform work, it is important to underscore that the risks for job quality are not inevitable and can be overcome through careful policy action. How big is employment in the platform economy? Existing evidence in this respect is still scant and imprecise, largely because standard labour force surveys do not capture the phenomenon effectively.
The available data, however, indicates that this segment of the labour market is still very small. Furthermore, this is likely to be an overestimate due to the features of the survey design, which is based on an online tool that tends to over-represent the most technologically savvy part of the population. Most of the other existing studies covering a range of countries have typically produced estimates that vary between 0.
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Work through digital platforms is becoming increasingly important in emerging economies. Well-known international platforms such as Uber, Cabify, and Airbnb are becoming more established in the emerging world. In addition, there is a growing number of active local companies in these markets Sundararajan, . Similar concerns apply in emerging economies, but one additional element plays an important role in those countries: the high incidence of informal employment OECD, .
In such a context, the platform economy may constitute an opportunity for many workers to formalise, since it can reduce the costs of formalisation and improve monitoring of economic activity through the digitalisation of transactions. Although limited in time and space, the results of the study show that platform work is not always synonymous with worse working conditions. Notably, the study highlights the role played by the platforms in facilitating access to social protection for workers.
For example, GoJek offers help to its drivers to subscribe to the government health insurance program, while at Grab Bike workers are automatically enrolled in the government's professional insurance programme. While this is only one example and additional research in this area is needed, it clearly highlights that by reducing the costs of formalisation, platforms can be an important bridge towards formality. Policy makers could go further and mandate platforms to collect personal income taxes and social security contributions on behalf of the workers OECD, .
Of course, platform work is not a panacea for the problem of informality, if anything because the sector is still very small. Curbing informality in emerging economies requires a comprehensive three-pronged approach that not only aims to reduce the costs of formalisation, but also increase it perceived benefits e.
Also, while the platform economy may have grown fast, there are signs that its growth may already have started to slow down. Data produced by the Oxford Internet Institute provides an indication of the growing importance of online work one type of platform work which is carried out entirely online. Despite its limitations and its focus on one particular kind of platform work, the indicator provides an indication of recent trends.
Between May and May platform work grew by over a third. This global dimension of platform work and the risk of a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards for certain segments of this market indicate that coordinated action among countries is required. The recent interest in the still small platform economy risks detracting from a more general and relevant issue: the significant and in some countries growing incidence of non-standard work more generally, and its potentially negative implications for job quality.
They include, therefore, workers with temporary jobs, part-time contracts, and those who are self-employed. Non-standard jobs are not necessarily of lower quality than standard jobs. The work of a high-skilled professional, for instance, may be non-standard since it falls into the category of self-employment, but might be characterised by high and stable earnings, as well as by good working conditions. OECD . For this reason, monitoring trends in non-standard work becomes crucial to assess developments in job quality.
In the majority of OECD countries, non-standard work encompasses a significant share of the labour force over a third , but recent trends have not been uniform. In around half of OECD countries, there has been a long-term upward trend in temporary employment. In the countries where the share of fixed-term contracts has fallen, the reduction has typically been small with the exception of Greece, Japan, and Turkey. The share of contracts of very short duration zero to three months in fixed-term employment, a category that often concerns policy makers, shows a somewhat heterogeneous trend.
In just over half of OECD countries, this share has increased. Yet, with the exception of the Baltic countries and Belgium, in the countries where it decreased, that trend was essentially due to the expansion of fixed-term contracts of longer duration.
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This is often viewed positively, especially since the rise in part-time employment has been associated with more women entering the labour market, and it has allowed individuals to find a better work-life balance. For some workers, however, part-time employment is involuntary and reflects the difficulty to find full-time jobs. The share of involuntary part-time in total part-time dependent employment has risen in two thirds of OECD countries for which data are available, although there have been declines in countries like Belgium, Poland and in Germany since While in some countries this increase in involuntary part-time will have been partly crisis-related e.
Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece , in most countries one can observe a longer-term trend increase. Data are for instead of for Turkey; instead of for Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands; and instead of for Australia. When interpreting these trends, one should bear in mind that in some countries the rise of short part-time may be an enabling factor for some workers seeking greater flexibility e.
The available data do not allow a clear distinction between these different interpretations. This rise might be partly driven by increases in very atypical contracts on-call and zero-hour work , but the evidence in this respect is mixed. In Australia, one in four workers is a casual worker, and over half of casual employees report having no guaranteed hours Campbell, . Note: Data are for instead of for Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands; instead of for Norway; and instead of for Australia.
This may be surprising and in contrast with the perception that new technologies and work models ought to facilitate the rise of independent work.