Emerging Patterns of Worker Identities in the Swiss Gig Economy
04 - Beitrag Sammelband oder Konferenzschrift
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The gig economy is receiving more and more public attention. The current debate revolves around the inherent ambiguity of the legal status of so-called gig workers. Gig work can be conceptualized internally as a kind of hybrid work form containing rationales of control related to employment as well as the degrees of freedom and flexibility normally attributed to self-employment. Working in the economy is connected to a high degree of ambiguity regarding job security and financial stability, planning and coordination of workloads, as well as broader issues regarding life course planning and career path development. The internal ambiguity of gig work as a newly emerging work form has several implications for the construction of worker identities. Gig workers are required to evaluate the role of the emerging new work form regarding identity development in their actual life span and their career development. It is proposed, that the respective individual relevance of gig work for professional development as well as the integration in to private and work-related identities generates needs for identity adaptation. Therefore, the construction of new combinations of work related, but in a more general term also life course related identity patterns is expected. To get an exploratory insight into emerging identity patterns, the construction of gig worker identities was analyzed in a qualitativeexplorative study by interviewing 18 platform workers of the biggest gig work company in Switzerland. In the interviews narratives of gig worker biographies were evoked and social identity maps visualized. In two subsequent workshops with ten gig workers from the same company the identified patterns were communicatively validated. The results of the qualitative-explorative inquiry lead to the development of a typology of gig worker identity patterns. Identity patterns can be differentiated on the dimensions of integration of gig work in the actual life course, the relevance of gig work and other life and work domains, as well as the complexity of social identity patterns. Furthermore, the identified patterns are related to different styles of identity integration. More specifically, workers perceiving gig work as a transition in their vocational development can be distinguished from workers, who have developed a mid-term perspective in doing gig work. The development of a more stable perspective is related to hybrid combinations of central identity domains (work or private), compared to more complex patterns in transient forms of gig work episodes. The method of visualizing identity maps can be evaluated as useful for the identification of emerging identity patterns in hybrid work arrangements. So far, the study is limited to the workers of the gig work platform under study, but the applied method of identity mapping seems conducive to the investigation of emerging, identity patterns in other work contexts. A further validation of the developed identity patterns could be used to inform the current debate on the legal status of gig workers.