Event highlight

How have platform firms affected work around the world?

International online workshop with Kathleen Thelen, Anke Hassel, Kai Wegrich and Felix Sieker looks at work in the platform economy.

Platform-based companies like retailer Amazon or the ride-sharing app Uber have changed not only how goods and services are provided, they have had ripple effects on all kinds of related industries, supply chains, job markets, tax systems and much more.

At the beginning of June, Kathleen Thelen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and scholars from the Hertie School co-organised an international online workshop on regulating work related to the platform economy, with participants from Berlin, Boston, Utrecht and San Francisco. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Hertie School’s annual Michael Endres Prize. Kathleen Thelen, Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT, was one of two 2019 prize winners. Anke Hassel, Professor of Public Policy, Kai Wegrich, Professor of Public and Public Administration, and PhD Researcher Felix Sieker were co-organisers.

The first two-day session on 27-28 May focused on topics such as the effects of the platform economy on business models, value chains and the world of work. Hassel and Thelen opened the event with an introduction to the dynamics of internet-based companies. On 2 June, the workshop continued, focusing on the regulation of work on digital platforms.

Hassel and Sieker presented a paper exploring how the emergence of a platform firm affects work across an entire industry, including supply chains and related industries that are not platform firms. The paper focuses on the effects of the online retail giant Amazon on logistics work in the US and Germany. Hassel and Sieker’s paper examines how Amazon has disrupted the service economy in the US, Germany and UK with a business model that puts existing service providers under pressure, while being limited by labour shortages and the pressure to maintain service quality and customer satisfaction.

Kai Wegrich and Eliska Drapalova, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Gothenburg, presented a paper comparing the regulation of platform companies across EU cities and sectors.

A panel discussion with policymakers concluded the workshop. Julia Borggräfe, division head at the Federal Ministry of Labour, discussed the challenges of freelance workers on labour platforms with colleagues from Swedish and Danish trade unions.

The Michael Endres Prize has been awarded annually since 2017 to renowned academics whose work centres on topics within the Hertie School’s research and teaching fields, and who have helped bridge academic research and policymaking. The prize usually involves research, teaching and public events over the course of the year in Berlin, although due to the coronavirus pandemic, this event was held online. Two political scientists, Adrienne Héritier, Emeritus Professor of Social and Political Sciences at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence and Kathleen Thelen of MIT, were the 2019 recipients.

More about the organisers

  • Anke Hassel, Professor of Public Policy
  • Kai Wegrich, Dean of Research and Faculty and Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy