The gig economy is a force for good. Yet it feels like the main players have lost their way. It’s an entry point into the market place for many immigrants and it’s vital for social mobility. It’s hard to think of any business that at some time wouldn’t benefit from temporary workers for short term or ad hoc projects. An increasingly many millennials they want a portfolio career. They are less fixated than their parents’ generation on having a job for life. The likes of Uber and Airbnb have done much to improve people’s lives in a time poor world. Their culture of immediacy, the greater availability and the better value for money has transformed the economic and social landscape.
For students it may well be their first experience in the workplace. It gives them the flexibility to earn cash, support themselves whilst studying and get real first hand experience of the workplace. And for mums and older workers, they value the flexibility the gig economy allows. Increasing labour force participation and getting unemployed people back on the first rung of the job will have measurable and immeasurable benefits.
And let’s not forget the gig economy gets money moving around the financial eco-system.
Yet Deliveroo and Uber have seen themselves hijacked on rows about workers rights and the minimum wage. They have become too defensive when it comes to selling the virtues of their business model. If they don’t change the conversation they will find themselves the next bogeymen of the Business and Treasury Select Committees hauled in front of politicians looking to make an example of them. Don’t get me wrong – we must have all the necessary safeguards in place to protect workers and stop exploitation – but Uber and Deliveroo have positive stories to tell. And whilst we are on the subject, politicians should be doing a lot more to champion these dynamic businesses. The gig economy accounts for 1.1 million people. Self-employment is at its highest level ever. And it’s only going to get bigger. Without innovation and creativity we will slip down the global economic order at a critical time for the country as it grapples with the all the uncertainties around Brexit. We need Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb to continue to come here and create jobs.
Sadiq Khan’s decision to revoke Uber’s license looks like crude pandering to the unions. Yet ultimately unless he does a u-turn I think the move will massively backfire. For many people in London its dramatically improved their quality of life, making cabs an affordable and safe option to get home at night. The black cabbies only have themselves to blame with their sky high fares and fondness for cash over credit cards.
In a post Brexit world we need to remain a hub for dynamic innovate start-ups. If we are not careful and Corbyn has his way, private business will become the enemy of the state and the only good job going will be one working for the government. The big players in the gig economy need to develop a positive narrative otherwise they might find themselves inadvertently helping Corbyn into Number Ten. And we know that story won’t have a happy ending for UK Plc.