What have we learned from the market for Online Labour [1/3]: The growth of online labour

This September marks the two-year anniversary of the launch of the Online Labour Index, the experimental economic indicator on the utilisation of online labour. This is the first in the series of blog posts describing what we have learned from the data.

The paper accompanying the Online Labour Index was just accepted for publication in Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

The attached figure plots the time series from the start of the time series until today. Over a period of little over two years (May 2016 to August 2018) the online crowd work economy has grown by about a quarter.


While there is a clear trend increase in the number of vacancies being posted, there are observable dips around Christmas, New Year and summer time, which correspond to seasonal dips in business activity in those sectors most heavily using online services.

The market is characterised by pronounced growth sports such as the one starting from early April 2017 and lasting until mid-May 2017, and others starting from September 2017 and lasting until November of the same year. These reflect marketing investments made by individual platforms, and therefore are probably one-off events.

The marketing activities of individual platforms have also resulted in downward pressure of the vacancies index. In particular, many of the online labour platforms have started their white-glove services, where they handle the vetting and hiring of the freelancers on their clients’ behalf. These vacancies usually do not generate an openly posted vacancy, and consequently are missed by the OLI data collector.

For more details, see the full paper:

Kässi, O., and Lehdonvirta, V. (2018). Online Labour Index: Measuring the Online Gig Economy for Policy and Research. Technological Forecasting and Social Change (forthcoming)