The platform economy, which allows consumers to order food via an app or book services via a website, is here to stay. Things will look different, concludes professor of innovation studies Koen Frenken. ‘And that has everything to do with legislation and regulations.’
‘Cowboy years’ of platform economy are over
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The law on bogus self-employment in particular will become problematic for some platforms. According to Frenken, platforms such as WeWork can still continue to exist, but a Temper (for catering staff, ed.) sees dark clouds hanging over them. “People do exactly the same work as someone who is employed,” he says. ‘So I assume that will also be seen as bogus self-employment.’
He also expects that more specific legislation will be introduced in response to the lawsuits about platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo, where algorithms influence how work is brokered.
The fact that there will be stricter legislation and regulations for platforms has to do with the ‘cowboy years’, when anything was possible. According to platform expert Martijn Arets, those times are over because society has learned that they play an important role. “Society can ensure that platforms operate according to the standards we want,” he adds. ‘Quite a lot of regulations have already come from Brussels, and there will be many more to come.’
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The emphasis is mainly on the legal status of workers, he knows. The impact that technology has on those same workers is also examined. To the dismay of the platforms. ‘Companies – and certainly the large platforms – knew from day one that regulations were coming, but they tried to postpone it as long as possible.’
A good example of this is Uber and its delivery platform Uber Eats. They are currently experimenting with actually hiring delivery drivers. A drastic change of course, according to Koen Frenken. “I was slightly surprised about it, but the reason they give is that they can attract more people this way,” he explains. ‘You have people who work a lot of hours in a week, and you might want to retain them more. You can then set up a flexible shell of self-employed people around that to absorb the peaks.’
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Uber gives one reason for this, including the tight labor market, although according to Frenken it could also be a precautionary measure. “They may soon have to hire everyone,” he says. ‘That they are already experimenting with how they want to organize this. And that’s not a crazy thought either.’
What does the future of Uber look like?
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European rules are on their way
That fear arises from impending legislation from Brussels, says Frenken. Although nothing is final yet, given that all Member States will have to give it a go, there are certainly rules on the way that will designate platforms as employers under certain circumstances. ‘And Uber is just such a platform that could meet such criteria.’