How does economics match the full human being? The gig economy and the Taylor Report

Our assumption in A/UK is that a new politics must match the complexity and richness of the lives we live, beyond ideological or party-political tramlines.

So where does the phenomenon of the "gig economy" fit into all this? Meaning, the rise of employment platforms which use software to match available and flexible workers with on-demand tasks and services? (The models most often cited in the UK are Uber, the taxi service, and Deliveroo, the food delivery service). 

The Taylor Report, commissioned by the current Conservative Government in the UK and just published, is a form of response to the complexities the gig economy raises. For those who consume their services, the convenience and precision these tech-driven platforms provide can be an attractive experience (anyone landing in a new town or city will use Uber with relief). Yet for those who produce in the gig economy, the tensions are all too obvious.

The ideal is that bits of paid work ("gigs") can occupy the right slot, in a life that moulds itself around the worker's skills and tempo. (As Ursula Huws notes, the original call for "flexible working" was feminist-driven). 

The reality of the gig economy in the last few years has been - as the Taylor report partly addresses - that the platform owners set a harsh pace. They mark down their workers when they are not available, and (in the classic capitalist way) use the new situation to reduce and depress wage rates, for equivalent jobs under more regulated conditions - whether by law or unions. 

The Taylor Review tries to address the gap between ideal and reality, by suggesting that gig workers can ask to be paid rates equivalent to the national living wage, and should expect some element of sick pay and holiday rights. Matthew Taylor (head of the RSA) wants to redefine them as "dependent workers". They will be halfway between employees and the fully "self-employed" - on-call and on-demand, but with some rights. 

That these "gig" rates and conditions, however episodic and fragmented, should be brought in line with minimum "employee" standards elsewhere seems sensible. However it's worth noting that there are contending models that go beyond just regulating these "platform capitalists" from the outside. 

Take "platform cooperativism", as defined by Wikipedia (and for more, see its ecosystem website):

A platform cooperative, or platform co-op, is a cooperatively-owned, democratically-governed business that uses a protocol, website or mobile app to facilitate the sale of goods and services.

The book on platform cooperativism - click here

The book on platform cooperativism - click here

Platform cooperatives are an alternative to venture capital funded platforms insofar as they are owned and governed by those who depend on them most—workers, users, and other relevant stakeholders.

Proponents of platform cooperativism claim that, by ensuring the financial and social value of a platform circulate among these participants, platform cooperatives will bring about a more equitable and fair digitally-mediated economy, in contrast with the extractive models of corporate intermediaries.

Platform cooperatives differ from traditional cooperatives not only due to their use of digital technologies, but also by their contribution to the commons for the purpose of fostering an equitable social and economic landscape.

A rich network of these platform coops is available here.

As shown by the work of Indy Johar and Chris Cook on this site, and our advocacy of basic income, we are interested in economic models that respond to the full human being, so often squeezed out of existing systems. Your own thoughts are very welcome - please mail here.