The Dutch government is planning to regulate the gig economy, a venture that according to social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees could take the best part of a decade to finalise.
Koolmees presented plans to offer freelancers more employment certainty while also combatting fake self-employment setups.
Broadly, there are two objectives – to ensure a gross wage of at least €16 an hour; the second, to create a new system of checks for employers to distinguish between real and bogus self-employment.
Another idea is that high-earning contractors making more than €75 an hour will draft a common declaration in the form of a one-year contract.
The main criticism is that while the regulation of the upper end of the market appears doubtful, the €16 minimum could turn out to be a new maximum, undercutting contractors’ income. The challenge to regulate the gig economy is anything but new.
According to a study partially funded by the European Parliament published in November 2017, the gig economy is changing workplaces across Europe, mostly to the detriment of employees.
The study was undertaken by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), UNI Europa, the European services workers union, the University of Hertfordshire and Ipsos MORI which revealed that Europe’s gig workplace obliterates any sense of normative regulation of the labour market.
An estimated 9% of the German workforce and 22% in Italy depend on so-called “crowd work” to account for half of their income. These millions of workers generally use platforms such as Upwork, Clickwork, Myhammer, Taskrabbit, Helpling, Uber, and Airbnb as the conduits for what has come to be known as “gig work”.
This work is precarious, informal, temporary, often dangerous, and doesn’t provide for a decent living, in and of itself. For the moment, crowd work appears to be mostly a supplement to other forms of activity, such as renting out a room or having regular employment.
No more than 1.6% of the adult population in The Netherlands makes more than 50% of their income from gigs. In Germany that number is roughly 2.1%, Austria 2.3%, Sweden 2.7%, the UK 2.7%, and Italy 5.1%.
The share of the workforce who are dependent on gigs for most of their income is significantly higher and the number of people who say they work full-time in the gig-style sector is rising, including up to 41% of Italian gig workers.
The millions of Europeans who work in this manner is in the millions. As a result, the gig economy has become a challenge to the whole taxonomy of employment. Only 7-13% of workers consider themselves self-employed. Most feel stressed and undervalued as platforms treat them as expendable. Most have reported cases of arbitrary termination from work and cases where salaries go unpaid.
The hazards that gig-workers face are both physical and emotional, according to the report. They cannot plan their private time, as they need to be constantly available because they fear negative ratings. Without any formal worker’s rights, they are often vulnerable to pressures ranging from sexual harassment to being pressed to deliver drugs.