The Protection of Workers in Platform or Gig Economy – The United States Experience
Author：Cing-Kae Chiao Adjunct Research Fellow
Origin of Topic
Generally speaking, the so-called “platform” or “gig” economy refers to companies that started appearing in 2005 following the launch of Amazon.com’s “Mechanical Turk” in the United States. Those who engage in services in this emerging form of employment are generally classified as “contingent laborers.” Unlike conventional “full-time laborers,” contingent laborers are not hired by specific employers, nor do they have a typical work relationship with their employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor has defined contingent work as “any work arrangement which does not contain an explicit or implicit contract for long-term employment.” However, the BLS has yet to provide an official definition for labor associated with platform or gig economy. Instead, the U.S. Department of Commerce has set a precedent and named companies that provide contingent work “digital matching services,” and these services are defined as those that have the following characteristics: (1) facilitate peer-to-peer transactions using online platforms or mobile apps; (2) utilize user-based rating systems; (3) offer workers flexibility in determining their hours; and (4) place responsibility on workers to provide whatever tools or assets are necessary to accomplish their work. In light of this definition, we should study extensively the new challenges, whether collectively or individually, that the United States will be facing on regulating labor relations. Taiwan’s platform or gig economy is currently in a budding and gradually growing stage, and there are still much more to do in improving the working conditions of contingent workers as compared to those of the temporary or part-time workers. Nevertheless, with Taiwan’s rapidly growing digital economy, contingent work will become a very important labor issue in the future. Borrowing from the experience of advanced countries in Europe and the United States, they can be used as reference for Taiwan to overcome similar challenges while furthering its digital industry.