Understanding and Supporting Labour Migration in the Digital Economy


   School of Computer Science

   Friday, March 01, 2024  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Modern economies have become increasingly dependent on the service sector and the information economy. The workers involved in these sectors have had to adapt to increasingly automated scheduling and digital mediation of their labour. At the extreme, development of outsourcing into crowdsourcing, where workers toil from their home computers, has had a profound effect on how in particular low-income individuals engage with the labour market. For these individuals, work has become transient and piecemeal. However, while the work is transient, the platforms used by workers are sticky. Worker attachment to specific platforms is ensured due to a need to protect reputation and preserve accreditations, which cannot be ported between platforms. However, the ability to move between employers is fundamental to traditional employment, where it provides some recourse to workers against poor conditions.

This project will explore the movement of labour between different digitally mediated roles and providers in the expanding gig economy with a view to synthesise an understanding of the workers relationship to these platforms and their needs. Further, the project will build upon this understanding to develop mechanisms to allow workers in identify, expand, and evidence skills in a transferable form. These findings and tools will support worker migration between platforms to facilitate a professional and skilled digital workforce that can maximise value to those they work for, while ensuring fairness and dignity for workers. One practical outcome of the work would include be a framework or intermediary to facilitate data sharing between online labour platforms, in a secure and privacy focused form.

Topics of interest

The project may consider a variety of topics and take several different approaches. Areas relevant to this work consider the complex relationships between the workforce, the employer, and the wider national and international economy in the context of computer mediated work. Relevant topics include the gig-economy, crowdsourcing, computer supported work, economics, user behaviour, digital markets, social factors, and policy implications.

Informal enquiries can be made to Dr Jason Jacques, School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews.

Eligible candidates

Applicants must hold a BSc or MSc in Computer Science or a related discipline.

The School of Computer Science is a centre of excellence for computer science teaching and research, with staff and students from Scotland and all parts of the world. It is a member of the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA).

The University of St Andrews is committed to promoting equality of opportunity for all, which is further demonstrated through its working on the Gender and Race Equality Charters and being awarded the Athena SWAN award for women in science, HR Excellence in Research Award and the LGBT Charter.

The University of St Andrews School of Computer Science was awarded the Athena SWAN Silver award for its sustained progression in advancing equality and representation. The School particularly welcomes applications from those suitably qualified from all genders, all races, ethnicities and nationalities, LGBT+, all or no religion, all social class backgrounds, and all family structures. The School values equality and diversity across its workforce and offers a family friendly and supportive environment in which flexible working is encouraged; we strive to hold important meetings/seminars within core hours of 09.30 to 16.30. In addition, a broad variety of measures are currently being introduced to ensure effective career progression for everyone and to eradicate the historical lack of diversity at higher levels.


Computer Science (8) Economics (10)

Funding Notes

This scholarship covers all tuition fees and comes with a stipend (currently £18,622 full-time equivalent). Additional scholarships may be available from other sources.
The School welcomes applications from under-represented groups, and is willing to consider part-time and flexible registrations. The successful applicant will however be expected to conduct their research in St Andrews and not fully remotely.

Register your interest for this project