Online platforms (including platforms for second-hand goods) have grown explosively in recent years: 6% of the Dutch population used these platforms in 2013, while in 2016 almost a quarter did. These services meet a need and force traditional markets to innovate, but newspaper headlines show that the growth of the sharing and gig economy is also raising new questions in relation to public interests. Who is responsible for fire safety and public order when a person lets their home via Airbnb? What is the legal status of cleaners who work via the Helpling platform: are they self-employed or employees?
We show that the new practices arising from the sharing and gig economy are having both a positive and a negative impact on some public interests.The Rathenau Instituut’s intention with this report is to provide guidelines for the political debate and policy formulation on the issue. The government can both stimulate the positive impacts and limit the negative impacts of the new practices.
In 2016 the Rathenau Instituut published a report on innovation and regulation, which discussed the role of regulation in relation to emerging technologies and innovation. In March 2017, the institute published the report Urgent upgrade: protect public values in our digitized society in which it discussed ways of guaranteeing fundamental rights in the digital age. This study, which is a joint publication of the Rathenau Instituut and Utrecht University, follows up that report by exploring how to properly manage the opportunities created by the process of digitisation.
What has been researched?
For this study the Rathenau Instituut has reviewed the academic literature in order to describe the phenomenon of the sharing and gig economy. The empirical basis for the report is formed by five case studies of popular platforms on which consumers arrange transactions with assets and personal services: UberPop, Helpling, Airbnb, Airdnd and SnappCar.
The central question addressed in this study is how public interests that are affected by new practices arising from the sharing and gig economy can be safeguarded. That question is broken down into three separate questions:
What do we mean by the sharing and gig economy and what specific form does it take in practice?
What public interests are affected by the sharing and gig economy?
How can these public interests be safeguarded, how will those safeguards be established and what are the roles of public authorities and the platforms in particular in that process?
Why is the sharing and gig economy up for debate?
We show that the new practices arising from the sharing and gig economy are having both a positive and a negative impact on some public interests.
Sharing and gig platforms have positive effects in terms of wealth, employment, entrepreneurship, social cohesion and the environment. Public interests that are threatened by them include a level playing field, taxation, consumer protection, prevention of discrimination, public order, platform-independence, preventing the forming of monopolies and protection of privacy and autonomy.