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Postdoc for project Platform Labor: Transformations of Work and Livelihood in Post-Welfare Societies

The Faculty of Humanities has a vacancy for a Postdoctoral researcher for the project ‘Platform Labor: Transformations of Work and Livelihood in Post-Welfare Societies’.

Digital platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and Care.com are transforming how people work, create and share value, and sustain themselves in their everyday lives. Platform companies are also increasingly important in their role as institutional actors that redraw relations between market, state, and civil society. When we consider that these relations have historically been shaped by gender, class, and racial inequalities, it becomes crucial to ask how and to what extent platforms – as new sites of capital accumulation, governance, and norm-making – reproduce existing inequalities and if/how they also generate new vulnerabilities or tools for empowerment. Accordingly, the Platform Labor research project aims to determine how digital platforms are changing the organization of labor, livelihood, and (urban) governance in societies marked by retrenching welfare systems. The project consists of four subprojects, examining the following topics:

  1. the opportunities and challenges of low-income service work in the ‘on-demand economy’;
  2. Airbnb’s uneven impact on households, neighborhoods, and cities;
  3. the platformization of social reproduction in a participatory society;
  4. the policy challenges that arise when labor, social reproduction, and (urban) governance are increasingly impacted by digital platforms.

All projects adopt a cross-national comparative approach. The first three subprojects, conducted by the PI (1) and two PhD students (2 & 3), are rooted in ethnographic research conducted in three cities that have seen a major growth in platform-mediated ‘gig’ and ‘sharing’ economy activity: Amsterdam, Berlin, and New York City (for more information, please consult Platform Labor).

To investigate the multi-scalar policy and regulatory challenges that emerge in the context of subprojects 1-3, the Platform Labor project is looking for a postdoctoral researcher with a background in comparative public/social policy studies. The successful candidate will be responsible for carrying out subproject 4, which aims to examine to what extent and how platforms circumvent, negotiate, problematize, or indeed align themselves with existing policy measures and frameworks on local and national levels.

For example, since platform-mediated food delivery and cleaning work is highly individualized and mostly performed by people classified as independent contractors, it adds significant pressure on national institutions such as social security systems and collective bargaining agreements. Meanwhile, short-term home rental platforms such as Airbnb complicate, if not upend, existing local policies and regulations concerning tourism, housing, and urban planning. Finally, with regard to ongoing welfare retrenchment and new demands placed on ‘participating’, ‘responsible’ citizens and households, platforms become entangled with ideals of grassroots, decentralized governance and policy, in which they are expected to fulfill gaps left by public and private institutions.

The postdoctoral candidate is expected to build on the work undertaken by the project’s team members, while applying their own perspectives, approaches, and expertise to the study of the various policy and regulatory challenges of digital platforms in New York (US), Berlin (Germany) and Amsterdam (Netherlands).


  • A PhD degree in political science, policy studies, or a related field/discipline (expertise in comparative policy studies is strongly preferred);
  • outstanding research qualities manifested in a high-quality PhD dissertation and (preferably) international peer-reviewed publications;
  • demonstrable research experience with respect to labor market and welfare transitions in the United States and Europe (particularly Germany and the Netherlands);
  • demonstrable research experience with respect to urban governance/policy issues;
  • close familiarity with state of the art research on gig work and platform economies;
  • excellent written and spoken English;
  • advanced understanding of the German language;
  • keen interest in interdisciplinary research methods and approaches;
  • ability and willingness to work in a team;
  • willingness to travel abroad for conferences and workshops;
  • proven organizational, administrative and leadership skills.