PhD Position on Ghost Work in Europe (1fte)

PhD Position on Ghost Work in Europe (1fte)

Published Deadline Location
9 Apr 26 Apr Rotterdam

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Job description

For Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems to function, humans must be in the loop to train, tune, and augment them. This means humans are needed to complete tasks such as coding, cleaning data, identifying (adult) content, labelling images, and transcribing training data for virtual agents. Much of this work is done via on-demand employment offered and performed online, paid by the task, on platforms such as Clickworker and Amazon Mechanical Turk. This rapidly expanding, largely invisible, piece of the platform economy has been called ghost work (Gray & Suri, 2019). Services, delivered by AI and humans working together, may enhance our daily productivity and convenience, but they also introduce new social challenges. The largely invisible work conditions together with the potential for ghost work to move automation forward into the next decades, urgently calls for an investigation of who, how, and with what consequences ghost work is performed in Europe.

The goal of this PhD project is to locate ghost workers in Europe and to study their motivations, work conditions, and experiences with on-line platforms. Workers will be recruited through online platforms for in-person interviews. The interviews will be semi-structured, consisting of open-ended questions about the worker’s work and private life, the role of ghost work in their livelihood, their experience with different tasks, and their experience with different platforms. Furthermore, specific work conditions will be examined. It is the assumption that ghost workers will experience different work conditions compared to employees in more traditional jobs; this analysis will reveal the work conditions associated most with ghost work by the workers themselves.

To summarize, the specific aims of this PhD project are:

  • To study workers’ experiences with different tasks and different platforms
  • To study workers’ experiences regarding work conditions and well-being
  • To develop an integrative framework for analyzing ghostworkers’ well-being


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)


We are looking for a PhD candidate who:

  • Completed a master in the social sciences (e.g., Sociology, Communication Studies), preferable a research master, with an interest in (digital) labor;
  • Has experience with conducting interviews;
  • Has excellent speaking and writing skills in English;
  • Likes working in and being part of a research team;
  • Would enjoy traveling for work and conducting interviews in four European countries;
  • Would be available and willing to start the PhD project September 2021.

Conditions of employment

Internationally-oriented and varied work within an enthusiastic team, with attractive fringe benefits in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO-NU). Your initial employment term will be for 1 year but will be extended with 3 years if your performance proves satisfactory.Your remuneration will depend on the position, your specific knowledge and experience It will be calculated on the basis of full-time salary ranging between EUR 2.395 and EUR 3.061 gross per year (salary scale P, CAO NU ). Erasmus University Rotterdam offers attractive terms of employment, including a holiday allowance of 8%, a year-end payment of 8.3% and 41 annual leave days in case of a full work week. In addition, EUR takes part in the ABP pension scheme, and we also offer partially paid parental leave. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Moreover, EUR staff members are allowed to make use of the EUR facilities, including the Erasmus sports centre and the University Library. We value diversity and believe that a diversity of talents contributes to our vision and strategy to excel as a university on research and education. This means that we are looking for a person who can complement our team well.

Erasmus University Rotterdam aims to support and develop research talent. The Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities (EGSH) contributes to this ambition by providing a training infrastructure and a socially support environment to PhD candidates. If you are a PhD candidate at ESSB you are also automatically a member of the EGSH. This means you can attend our courses and workshops for free and make use of our support services.


Erasmus University Rotterdam

The Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), named after Rotterdam-born humanist and theologian Erasmus, is a research university with a strong international orientation and a pronounced social focus, both in its education and research activities. On the lively, modern campus, more than 28.000 students and scholars of more than 100 nationalities are constantly encouraged to develop their talents and meet their ambition. Our more than 2700 scientists and employees work together with all our students to solve challenges faced by global society, drawing their inspiration from the consistently dynamic and cosmopolitan city of Rotterdam. The academic education offered at our faculties is intensive, engaging and strongly focused on practical application. We increasingly perform our research in multidisciplinary teams, which are closely interwoven with international networks. In terms of research impact and the quality of its degree programmes, EUR can compete with the foremost universities in Europe, which is reflected in its consistent top-100 position in most major universities rankings. Erasmus University Rotterdam’s key values are daring, curiosity, social involvement, breaking new ground and striving for success


Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

The Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB) is home to a vast diversity of scientific disciplines: public administration, pedagogical sciences, psychology and sociology. In addition, the Erasmus University College, IHS, and two research institutes RISBO and DRIFT are linked to the faculty. This also reflects in the content of the (international) bachelor's and master's programs and in research.  Our activities are always focused on people and society. At the ESSB fundamental, internationally oriented research is of paramount importance. In addition, social research for professionals, policy makers, and the society is part of our research activities. ESSB offers a stimulating research environment where major national and international research grants are received. Appealing guest researchers and ambitious PhD candidates come along to conduct their research. Our education is small-scale and works with innovative forms of education such as Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Both the Dutch and English programs are highly ranked by students and alumni. ESSB is home to over 4000 students and more than 400 staff-members. The different disciplines are supported by the Faculty Office (for more information, please visit


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 40 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • ESSB/20210409


Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

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Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA, Rotterdam

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