The UK can become a world leader in the sharing economy – also known as the peer-to-peer economy – according to the author of a review commissioned by the government to explore the benefits of consumers offering properties and personal items.
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The sharing economy – currently expected to be worth around £9 billion by 2025 – is a system for people to share their surplus goods, from houses to cars or even skills and clothes. Time banks, co-working, crowdfunding and clothes swapping are all expression of a sharing economy.
While some forms are for free and based on solidarity and cooperation, others are more profit-driven and have seen companies being set up to provide platforms that put people in touch with others. This is the case with companies such as Airbnb, TaskRabbit and Uber.
The government has commissioned a review on the subject, undertaken by Debbie Wosskow, chief executive of Love Home Swap and founder of Collaborative Consumption, in order to assess the potential of the sharing economy in the UK – as well as its risks. It hopes to make the UK the “global centre” for sharing-based businesses.
Some of the issues highlighted include identity verification, working conditions or safety. Unlike in the UK, the sharing economy is being increasingly regulated elsewhere, for instance in the US and Germany.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Wosskow said, “The sharing economy is coming and it’s being driven by consumers. So what we’ve got to do is make it safe and regulate it where it needs to be regulated to allow it to grow. Workers want to be able to work in a more flexible way and we need to ensure they are protected.”
She added that businesses should not be ‘overregulated’.
“There’s definitely an issue with pricing and how people get paid,” says Wosskow.
“But what the report is not here to do is tackle the concept of the minimum wage. If people are choosing to work as freelancers, for whatever reason, that is their choice and we need to make sure there is enough protection in place without stopping new businesses.”
Photo: bionicteaching via Flickr