What now for ‘gig’ working and the sharing economy?
In October, an employment tribunal in London ruled that Uber’s drivers should be treated as employees of the company and not as self-employed contractors. The result could be that the company’s drivers will be entitled to receive statutory minimum wages, holiday pay and other legal rights. The case throws into question the business model of ‘gig working’, where workers are only paid for the work they do. Other companies, like Deliveroo, which offers home delivery of restaurant food, could also be subject to the new ruling if it is confirmed on appeal.
Meanwhile, there has been a rising backlash against AirBnB, another high-profile company in the ‘sharing econonmy’, which was set up to allow home owners to let out spare rooms to short-term guests. Critics claim that AirBnB is used increasingly by home owners who have entire houses or apartments to let and even by companies who can effectively get into the hotel business without all the usual rules and regulations. In turn, it is argued, property owners see there is more money to be made via AirBnB than by letting out homes to tenants, squeezing the market for rental homes.
What do these trends mean for the sharing economy? Can Uber, AirBnB, etc continue to live up to the hype? Is the sharing economy limited by what people have to share? If these companies are to expand beyond merely ‘sweating assets’, do they inevitably start to encroach on traditional players in these markets? Does the popularity of sharing services show that companies are now over-regulated? What lessons can we learn for the wider economy?
CEO, Clerkswell; writer, UK After the Recession
The Sharing Economy: Poverty of Ambition, Rob Killick, UK After the Recession, February 2015
Uber and out, Rob Lyons, spiked, 1 November 2016
Double take: workers with multiple jobs and reforms to National Insurance, Resolution Foundation, 9 November 2016
The ‘gig economy’ is coming. What will it mean for work?, Guardian, 26 July 2015
Deliveroo and Uber: What is the ‘gig’ economy?, BBC Newsbeat, 8 November 2016
Is the gig economy a bubble that’s about to burst?, Forbes, 26 September 2016
Why Airbnb is welcome in some cities and not in others, Independent, 7 November 2016
Video/audio: The Sharing Economy: radical capitalism or high-tech pocket money?, Battle of Ideas 2015