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Outsourced labor platforms and the Global South: working conditions and well-being [PhD Project]

Firms in developed countries are increasingly outsourcing services to the Global South through digital outsourcing labor platforms. For independent workers in the Global South, joining these platforms provides both opportunities and risks. This project connects platforms’ governance models, client firms’ behaviors and workers’ adaptive reactions to assess the working conditions and wellbeing of workers in the Global South. This project is part of the Adaptive Societies, Organizations and Workers theme.

Over the last years, a growing number of firms from developed countries has outsourced services (e.g., software development, data verification, data processing, etc) to the Global South through digital outsourcing labor platforms (OLPs). OLPs exhibit three features: 1) they act as intermediaries that connect client firms with independent workers; 2) client firms, generally located in the Global North, outsource specific digital tasks; 3) independent workers, increasingly from the Global South, are hired by the clients for well-defined, short-term tasks ranging for more complex (e.g. app design) to simpler (e.g. tagging). For independent workers, joining OLPs provides opportunities (e.g., employment), but also risks (e.g., exploitation) that might have important implications for workers’ wellbeing and working conditions. This multidisciplinary project focuses on organizational- (OLP governance models and client firms’ behavior) and individual-level factors (workers’ resources and strategies) and investigates how these interrelate in affecting the working conditions and well-being of workers in the Global South, specifically in Africa.

The project is part of the Adaptive Societies, Organizations and Workers theme and it is a collaboration between the Departments of Organization Studies, Human Resource Studies and Social Psychology. The integration of the project team members’ specializations is fundamental for the project’s four knowledge underpinnings, i.e., digital platforms and labor platforms research (Ciulli), workers’ well-being and working conditions in the digital economy (Bauwens, Kroon and Vranjes), work in the Global South (Ciulli and Kroon), qualitative (Ciulli and Kroon) and quantitative (Bauwens and Vranjes) methods.

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Project duration: 2021 - 2025

Cross-cutting themes

The Herbert Simon Research Institute for Health, Well-being, and Adaptiveness is a research center devoted to carrying out excellent, state of the art research in order to contribute to healthy and resilient people. We have selected three themes, which involve the collaboration between various Departments  and address actual themes in need of both fundamental and applied research.