According to various sources, in 2013-2017, Ukraine occupied the first place in Europe, and the fourth place in the world in terms of work on digital labour platforms, as measured by the amount of financial flows and the number of tasks executed on such platforms. Ukraine also ranks first in the world in “IT freelance”. It is estimated that at least 3% of the Ukrainian workforce is involved in online work. Eighteen per cent of Ukrainian white-collar office workers already tried digital work and would like to switch to it fully; one in two view it as additional source of income. How did this quiet revolution come about? Who are these Ukraine-based digital workers? What are the conditions of their work? What consequences does digital work have for them, but also for the Ukrainian labour market and the society in general? What is the future of these new modes of work? This report strives to answer these questions.
The surveys focused specifically on working conditions of online platform workers in Ukraine. Most of these workers refer to themselves as “freelancers”. They find work through digital labour platforms that is posted by clients from Ukraine and from other countries. Thework can last from several minutes to several months; it is not classified legally as an employment relationship. This means that the working conditions of these “freelancers” remain outside the scope of labour regulation. The results of the survey show that digital labour platforms have transformed the modes of work and changed how work is viewed by both businesses and workers. Such transformations inevitably carry both a strong potential for benefitting the Ukrainian society, as well as risks. An understanding of such risks is important for designing policy responses that can enhance the benefits of the work transformation brought about by the platforms.
The study reveals the important opportunities that digital work provides for Ukrainian workers, but it also raises important questions on the sustainability of this work and of the future of the social model that it offers. In order to keep the Ukrainian leadership of online work, but also to make the gains sustainable and equitably shared, there is clearly scope for an explicit governmental policy.