Since the beginning of 2020, I have been fortunate to be part of the project group behind Giglab Sverige – a collaboration between Jobtech Development / Swedish Public Employment Service, Skatteverket, Coompanion, and The Stockholm School of Economics together with Stiftelsen Svensk Industridesign and svenska Labbnätverket. Together we explore paths towards a more sustainable growth of the gig economy in Sweden. As a freelancer / gig worker myself since 12 years, this of course feels like a very important project also on a personal level.
In the spring of 2021 we released a report on challenges facing different players within the gig economy in Sweden: the gig workers themselves, the gig platforms and society as a whole, with a focus on government agencies. The findings were based on a series of digital workshops performed during the fall of 2020.
Giglab Sverige aims to continue the conversation with different players within the gig economy, and invites anyone interested to join in on conversations through a series of events, in both Swedish and English. For instance with a digital event at Digialmedalen this summer. Keep updated on the latest activities here.
Learnings outlined in the Giglab Sverige report
The working group, on the basis of this project, summarises what they have learned from this project as follows:
- The gig economy’s challenges are just the first of many for labour markets: The gig economy is part of ongoing changes to the labour market, and must be put in a broader system context that many call the “future of work”.
- Many problems in the gig economy are shared by others in the labour market: Many problems in the gig economy affect not only gig workers and platforms but also others with atypical forms of employment, for instance those employed on an hourly basis.
- Gig workers are not a homogenous group, and need to be met where they are: Some gig workers choose gig work, while others have few other options, and not all are employed full time within the gig sector. This may mean that sustainability-oriented solutions may need to be flexible, adapted for different members of this heterogeneous group, and decisions may need to be made on a case-by-case basis, for reasons of both fairness and effectiveness.
- Data portability means greater control for gig workers: Gig workers invest in “social capital” in the form of reviews and ratings. However, these are locked into a single platform. Workers would have more control over their situation if they could move this data from platform to platform, i.e. data portability.
- There is a need for a better understanding of how digital business models affect labour markets: Better understandings of how digital business models affect labour markets would support collaboration between state actors and new actors in the future of work. This lack of shared understanding creates conflicts, which undermine attempts to craft policy and solve societal problems.
- Recognition by policymakers that gig work occurs in a global market: The gig platforms operate in a global market, with competition from foreign platforms even within Sweden. However, national regulations only affect Swedish platforms—potentially putting them at a disadvantage globally. Platforms argue that regulators should be mindful of this risk.
- The meaning of work needs to be re-evaluated: There is a need for a bigger discussion concerning the meaning of work, today and tomorrow. To truly understand the gig economy and what drives people in the future of work, one needs to look at a gig worker primarily as an individual with different needs.
- The structure of the Swedish social security system may need to be revisited: Today, the Swedish social security system is built upon—and often assumes—the norm of permanent employment. However, it is not just in the gig economy that this norm is being eroded. Revisiting the social security system may be needed to both ensure decent working conditions and economic growth in Swedish society in the future.
- A framework is needed for authorities to engage in joint exploration, experimentation and collaboration: This project highlighted a wish—and need—for state actors to work together more formally. This would be simplified by the presence of a framework that enables joint exploration and learning in order to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and systems, as well as to be able to test ideas together to propose necessary changes. Such a framework has been proposed to the Government by Comet (Committee for Technological Innovation and Ethics).
- More knowledge about the gig economy is still needed: This project highlighted more questions and obstacles than answers, and should be considered a snapshot view of the gig economy at one point in time. There is still a need for more knowledge at system level, especially around regulations. There is also a need to follow the development of the phenomenon over time. Both objectives may most effectively be achieved through multiorganisational cooperation between public and private sectors actors, and the facilitation of early dialogue
The full report can be downloaded at giglabsverige.se (The report is in Swedish, but summarized in English)