Oxford Internet Institute’s iLabour Project Launches Online Labor Index to Measure Gig Economy

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Earlier this year, the iLabour Project, a study of the digital transformation of the labor market, was formed within Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute. This week, Oxford University Associate Professor Vili Lehdonvirta and fellow researcher Dr. Otto Kässi have announced the public launch of the Online Labour Index (OLI), a first-of-its-kind metric to track utilization of “online labor” in the so-called “gig economy.”

“Millions of people now use online platforms and apps to find online work and recruit occasional help over the Internet,” the announcement said. “Yet, despite it being a rapidly growing market, the relevant data is not recorded in conventional employment statistics.”

Professor Lehdonvirta notes that OLI-based online labor growth rates are striking “when they are contrasted with growth rates in conventional labor markets, which remain stagnant in the U.K. and U.S. according to latest national statistics. Yet, this burgeoning online economy has been largely unobserved and is missing from conventional labor market statistics.”

The iLabour Project describes the OLI as “the first economic indicator that provides an online gig economy equivalent of conventional labor market statistics. It measures the utilization of online labor across countries and occupations by tracking the number of projects and tasks in real time.”

The OLI data and visualization tools support the measurement and observation of trends in the utilization of online labor. For example, based on data collected to date, OLI indicates that, between May and September 2016, the utilization of online labor has increased about 10%, or 10 index points:

The OLI also permits insights into other cuts of the collected data — for example, the utilization of online labor by category across different countries:

The data show the top categories of online labor utilized in different countries and indicate that the U.S. dominates the utilization of online labor platforms.

According to the iLabor Project site, “the OLI is constructed by tracking all the projects/tasks posted on the five largest English-language online labor platforms, representing at least 60% of the market by traffic.” (For further details on methodology, follow this link.)

For contingent workforce managers, the OLI should be considered a new and important tool for insights into the increasing utilization of online labor, which is now becoming a mainstream means of getting work accomplished within organizations.

For more information on the iLabour Project and the OLI, visit: http://ilabour.oii.ox.ac.uk/.

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