University of Oulu

Exploring gig economy literature: a topic modelling approach

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Author: Lohtander, Joona1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Oulu Business School, Department of Economics, Economics
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.9 MB)
Pages: 76
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : J. Lohtander, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-05-17
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Simonen, Jaakko
Reviewer: Mourelatos, Evangelos
Simonen, Jaakko

Keikkatalouskirjallisuuden tutkiminen aihemallinnusta käyttäen


The rise of the gig economy, characterised by short-term tasks, payment per task, and flexible working arrangements, has posed numerous questions for researchers and policy makers alike. The flexibility of gig work offers benefits to some, but there are also various risks in working in the gig economy. The gig economy is under a rapid change, as platforms change the way of doing gig work. At the same time, the research on the gig economy is growing. Understanding the multidisciplinary and fast growing research field can be demanding.

This thesis aims to address this difficulty by using topic modelling to find latent topics and identify trends in the topics in the scientific literature on the gig economy. Unlike with traditional literature review methods, topic modelling can be used to a large corpus without much manual work. In this thesis, topic modelling is used to find latent topics in the scientific literature and those topics are then used in identifying trends in the distribution of topics over time. Then, select recently growing topics are review using traditional literature review methods, to understand reasons behind the growth in these topics. Furthermore, the literature review is used in finding opportunities for future research.

In this thesis 16 distinct topics were identified in the scientific literature on the gig economy. These topics can help researchers in outlining the dynamic and complex research landscape, and in finding new research directions. The topics highlight the complexity of the multidisciplinary research field and can thereby aid researchers in any field in understanding the research field as a whole.

The trends in the distribution of topics underline, how the research in the field has changed under the advent of local gig work, which is gig work mediated through platforms but done on-site. These local gig work platforms, such as ride-hailing or food delivery platforms, have made gig work more visible and captured the attention of researchers. This is reflected in all the three recently rapidly growing topics reviewed using traditional literature review methods.

This thesis highlights some opportunities for future research. First, the most prominent topic in 2021 was “Covid-19 and food delivery”. Still, there is yet to be much literature on the effects of Covid-19 on the gig economy. Research on, for example, the effects of Covid-19 on worker participation in the gig economy is needed. Second, although the question on gig workers taxonomy under tax and labour laws is one of the most prominent questions in the literature on the gig economy, the literature is conducted mostly by law researchers. Economics, for example, could focus more on the labour economics of this question.

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