“Imagined Futures of Work”: Regulating the Employment Status of Platform Workers in Denmark, France, Italy, and the Netherlands

Matteo Marenco (Scuola Normale Superiore)

The question of the employment status of “on-location” platform workers has been especially divisive over the last years. While some actors have insisted on the need to classify such workers as employees, others have highlighted the benefits of the in-place self-employment model. Legislation and collective agreements have emerged from the conflict. This dissertation investigates the drivers of such regulatory responses by looking at how actors have problematized the issue of employment status and acted to influence the regulatory outcomes in Denmark, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. Engaging with institutionalist scholarship, it argues that platform work regulation is best understood by looking at the learning foundations of institutional work practices undertaken by actors to shape regulation and by focusing on how such practices are anchored in different “imagined futures” of work. Methodologically, this work relies on seventy semi-structured interviews with ministry officials, traditional social partners, and platform managers and workers. It contributes to unpacking the black box of institutional action by stressing the importance of actors’ creativity and the “shaping power” of expectations.

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