The rise of online platforms in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis has led to the emergence of new forms of work, such as clickwork or online delivery services. This project focuses on the implications of digital platforms on domestic cleaning services – a thus far underexplored realm of platform work. In Germany, domestic services such as cleaning are mostly provided by female, low-skilled, migrant workers. These types of services are often undeclared, which does not only undermine the functioning of the welfare state, but also brings major risks for both workers and clients. The emergence of platforms mediating household cleaning might increase opportunities for flexible work and formal employment. However, it also opens up new challenges in terms of labour market regulation and working conditions.
The aim of this research project is to investigate the potentials and risks of platform-mediated cleaning services both from the perspective of cleaners and clients. More specifically, we examine the following research questions:
- What are the perspectives, experiences, and working conditions of workers providing platform-mediated household cleaning?
- What are the motives of clients to hire domestic cleaning services via online labour platforms?
- How do the digital platform infrastructures influence the working conditions and experiences of the cleaners, as well as the motives of clients?
- Following from these insights, which policy recommendations can be derived for the design and regulation of platforms mediating household cleaning?
Due to the explorative character of this research project, a mixed-methods approach is applied:
- A netnographic study provides insights in the various ways platform infrastructures shape and structure the working conditions of cleaners, as well as potential data and information asymmetries between cleaners and clients. Covering several platforms offering household cleaning services in Germany, the netnography also aims at a structured overview and comparison between currently available alternatives.
- A set of semi-structured interviews is conducted among cleaners and clients of one of the major platforms mediating household cleaning in Germany. These interviews aim to shed light on the experiences and perspectives of cleaners, as well as the motives of clients using these services. The interviews will be analyzed using the grounded theory approach.
- These qualitative methods are complemented by an online survey among cleaners of one of the major platforms mediating household cleaning in Germany. The survey builds on the interview findings, enabling us to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the experiences and working conditions of cleaners.
The project runs from April 2020 to May 2022 and is funded by the Hans Boeckler Foundation.
Project coordination and contact persons
This project is carried out by the WU Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration (Department of Socioeconomics), in cooperation with the Technical University of Berlin (Institute of Vocational Education and Work Studies/Economic Education and Sustainable Consumption).
Contact person at TU Berlin:
Dr. Stefanie Gerold (stefanie.gerold(at)tu-berlin.de)