EU’s gig-economy legislation: How to stop worrying and love platform work?

The ongoing EU discussions around the gig economy are highly constrained by focusing only on a couple of sectors, moreover, two most glaring examples where digitization has helped an ancient service meet the capabilities of today’s digital world. That is, delivery and transport services.

Tech savvy entrepreneurs and programmers are slowly laying the foundations for many other jobs to become “gig-itsed”, ranging from plumbing to babysitting. Secondly, the Covid pandemic has shown just how many of our jobs can be done remotely, which led many to think of different ways to do their jobs or offer their services independently. All of this will lead to more people offering their services through apps in the coming years, and Europe needs to ensure that the rules it’s currently drafting can be applicable to any future platform work that will arise.

EU’s Platform Work Directive began it’s life by targeting delivery and ride-hailing services, while in the meantime it became apparent that Europe cannot disregard sectors that have, or will, become gig-itised in the future. Many EU Member States and Members of the European Parliament have understood that it would be a hugely missed opportunity to boil down the legislation to ensure that all drivers or couriers are given full employee rights by the platforms they operate on, as this will put at risk other sectors looking to find efficiency and reliability through the use of apps.

Moreover, it is clear that many EU Member State governments and EU Parliamentarians see the “gig-itisation” of certain industries as an opportunity to reduce unemployment rates and are clearly in favour of having a flexible approach to allow workers to declare as self-employed. This means that we will continue to have difficult discussions within and between EU institutions on what shape the Platform Work Directive will take. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that that we will see progress before 2023.

Overall, the participants in the discussion on the platform economy and the future of work in Europe must take a strong and hard look at what the current rules will mean for the future competitiveness of Europe’s economy, and whether the next generation of workers will have the necessary tools to make the most out of the digital economy.

Author: Milan Pajic, Director, Tech and Digital Policies (milan.pajic@grayling.com)