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Two Models for a Fairer Sharing Economy

Amir Anwar and I have a new chapter out in The Cambridge Handbook of the Law of the Sharing Economy. The full piece is available to download at the link below:

Graham, M. and Anwar, M. A. 2018. Two Models for a Fairer Sharing Economy. In Davidson, N. M., Finck, M., Infranca, J. J. (eds). The Law of the Sharing Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 316-327.


Abstract

Millions of workers around the world join the so-called “sharing economy” every day to perform a variety of jobs. Most of these jobs are digitally mediated through internet-based platforms which connect buyers and sellers of goods and services. However, recent research has begun to highlight the many risks associated with jobs in the sharing economy (Scholz, 2016; Slee, 2016). Many such jobs are characterised by temporary contracts, long and irregular hours, low income, and are often unregulated. The work is highly commoditised, and a global market for this work means that many workers feel they are replaceable, with little bargaining power (Graham et al., 2017a). Workers are made to compete against each other which drives down wages. Thus, many workers will earn below the national minimum wage of their country of location. Since many of these jobs are small “tasks”, clients may have no formal or legal requirement to provide employment benefits to workers. In other words, many sharing economy work practices carry with them various forms of insecurities, and workers typically have less bargaining power than in standard labour markets. These risks are even more pronounced among workers in low and middle-income countries, where our research is situated. 

In this chapter, we discuss ways in which the sharing economy can contribute towards economic development by making its work practices fairer not just for workers in low and middle-income countries contexts, but also for those in other parts of the world. We first argue that there is a need to reframe work practices in the sharing economy. In some cases, this will mean ensuring that platforms are seen as employers (and workers are seen as employees rather than being seen as being self-employed) in cases where they exert a large amount of control over working lives. Secondly, a better understanding of the important nodes in sharing economy value chains (that is, points of influence and control) can help formulate strategies involving disruption and intervention by labour so that more value is captured for and by workers. This chapter introduces and reviews two models of cooperative working that could work in conjunction with each other to make the sharing economy fairer for workers around the world.