Challenges of the platform economy to labour law and social security

Event: Social Justice and Trade Unions

FES Beijing co-organised a workshop for young legal scholars together with the Chinese University of Politics and Law, where the German and Chinese scholars discussed different aspects of the legal relationship between a worker and a platform provider and the effects on workers’ social security could be mitigated.

In both China and Germany, labour relations are changing in certain industries under the influence of the platform economy. The lack of a formal employer and, consequentially, a labour contract, not only pose problems to the resolution of labour conflicts, but also raise the question of responsibility for social security contributions and therefore of platform workers’ eligibility for benefits. This not only affects workers in the platform economy, but ultimately the whole system of social security, which suffers from a decreasing number of contributors but an increasing number of recipients of benefits.

In light of these developments, the FES, in cooperation with the Research Institute for Social Law at the Chinese University for Politics and Law co-organised a workshop for young legal scholars titled “Challenges of the platform economy to labour law and social security”. The workshop was held in Beijing from November 16-18, 2018.

The co-organisers invited five German and fifteen Chinese scholars to the workshop. Scholars invited by FES were Prof. Dr. Olaf Deinert, Andreja Schneider-Dörr, Dr. Johannes Heuschmid, Prof. Dr. Daniel Ulber and Reihard-Ulrich Vorbau. The topics of their presentations ranged from general observations on the nature of regulations of platform companies in Germany to specific court cases being tried by German courts at the moment and their implications for future regulation. As German and Chinese labour law bear many similarities, much time was spent discussing the implications of various legal terms and their applicability to workers in the platform economy.

In addition to the workshop, Reinhard-Ulrich Vorbau held an open lecture on the regulation of new forms of work in Germany, and Prof. Dr. Olaf Deinert held an open lecture on transnational crowdwork. Both presentations led to interesting debates among attendees.

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