Book Review 

Will the gig economy prevail? by Colin Crouch

Will the gig economy prevail? by Colin Crouch

This is an interesting, but not necessarily easy, read.

It provides some useful background as to how the current employment law is coming under pressure as the big tech giants disrupt traditional industries and the issues this is raising.

Contract of employment

Mr Crouch delves into history to explain that in the UK employment was based on the societal set up of a master and servant, but over time legislation has been brought in to regulate employment and many rights have been enshrined in law. 

The gig economy has driven cart and horse through employment legislation – the tech companies such as Uber and Deliveroo argue that they are simply a technology platform linking self-employed drivers to their potential customers.

Precarious workers

The gig economy accounts for 20-30 per cent of the total workforce in Europe and US, but just 3 per cent of the business revenue. 

It has also led to the rise of the precarious workers – these are people working in the gig economy but who do not have the security of the traditional employment contract and whose lives are becoming increasingly precarious. 

Mr Crouch argues that the gig economy is underpinned by workers whose economic situation allows for no choice and that only if people have a base of security can they be expected to welcome and collaborate in tech revolution.

The future 

So given the precariousness of the gig economy, can it actually prevail?

Mr Crouch argues that it can, but that we need a complete rethink about recognising the value of non-market activities.

One solution suggested would be to pay everyone a citizen’s income funded through social insurance on “users of labour” as opposed to employers. 

Social insurance on “users of labour” plus the safety net of a citizen’s income providing a good, but basic, standard of living would enable people to embark on a lifelong learning mindset, which would ultimately benefit society.

In the increasingly polarised world of Brexit and Trump populism, a right to a citizen’s income could provide a solution for the social cohesiveness we are all craving right now. 

So, while the book may not be a riveting read, the facts and history bring context and the concept of a citizen’s income a possible solution to problems of the gig economy. 

Anna Sofat is founder of Addidi

Published by Polity

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