“Team Hub!” releases report on e-commerce business and employment trends in Europe.

9 Oct 2023

Team Hub!, a consortium of universities, research institutes, and trade unions from nine EU countries, has published an excellent report on business and employment trends in the e-commerce sector. The report is an up-to-date comparative overview of business and employment trends in the e-commerce sector.

Team Hub! was established to jointly address the complexities and challenges of e-commerce supply chains, especially with regard to storage and delivery activities. ETF is an associated partner in the project.

Drawing on research from nine country reports published earlier this year (Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Spain), the background report provides a comparative analysis of the e-commerce logistic sector and seeks to provide a solid problem definition for the project. The research questions the report aims to answer are:

  • Which are the business models and working conditions in the e-commerce supply chain? How do they affect employment and working conditions across different countries and geographical clusters and how are they going to change in the near future? How do the different models fare in terms of social sustainability?
  • How is the rise of e-commerce affecting the global value chain? How are the strongest players influencing the functioning of the market and the distribution of added value? Do unions have control over these trends and the direct and indirect effects on workers?
  • How is the rise of e-commerce and the consequent development of last-mile logistics and of dedicated hubs affecting local development and environmental sustainability?

The report includes a very useful section on definitions, distinguishing E-Trade from E-Commerce and Digital Trade and identifying the various segments of the e-commerce logistics supply chain (first mile, middle mile, and last mile) and the physical locations through which the movement of goods occurs.

It identifies the dominant players in e-commerce and in e-commerce logistics and their main markets.  It shows that although there is still a separation between the two markets, there is a common trend for retail companies to integrate e-commerce as part of their business and that this is transforming both retail and logistics in terms of how production and the labour force are managed.

In particular, today “all large e-commerce companies have their own logistics centres to stock and sell their products. In parallel, there is also a trend in traditional logistics players to increasingly focus on offering the entire logistic process as a service, including storage and delivery”.

In terms of employment trends, the report highlights an overall increase in jobs in e-logistics, because of seasonal peaks as well as widespread subcontracting, temporary contracts, and bogus self-employment.

The problems associated with this type of insecure employment are described well, and the report argues that only through legislative intervention, and/or where there is a strong trade union presence and collective bargaining activity in the sector, do conditions for workers stand a chance of improving. Instead, huge pressure on working and wage conditions– in the name of flexibility for employers – is creating a “race to the bottom” in the transport and logistics sectors.

The report makes essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how e-commerce and logistics are linked and the challenges workers and unions face when trying to improve working conditions.

We look forward to the next stages of the research! For more information about the project, please visit:  https://team-hub-project.eu/about/