Let’s build an inclusive gig economy in Europe

The “gig” labour sector is growing fast but can leave workers extremely vulnerable. With Mastercard, we’re building a community to reshape this form of work.

Even before the pandemic, the gig economy presented a big problem in Europe, as workers risked poor labour protection, rights and fair pay. This has been further heightened following Covid-19.

As an example, almost 70% of gig workers have cash flow concerns, a 10% increase since the pandemic hit. Meanwhile, as Covid-19 forces businesses to reduce permanent headcount, the gig workforce is growing with gig platforms seeing a 50% increase in sign-ups. At the same time, 3 in 4 freelancers have seen their incomes fall by an average of 76%.

And lower or volatile income of course leads to insecurity and anxiety amongst many other deep challenges for participants' health and wellbeing. This must change. We cannot simply trade a stable social contract for headcount agility. The gig economy represents up to 30% of the workforce in European businesses and need to be protected and treated fairly.

Through the Europe Delivers programme, Mastercard has taken a deeper look at how we can start to build an inclusive and fair gig economy for Europe. Together, we’ve identified four key problem areas in our initial report:

  1. Lack of financial safety nets. Gig workers don’t have good enough financial safety nets, leaving many without necessary resources in times of need
  2. Heightened risks of cyber-attacks. While the gig economy offers workers flexibility and organisations headcount agility, inherently it is less digitally secure than the traditional working environment. The result is that both parties are more exposed to cyber-security attacks and data breaches
  3. Widening skills gaps are threatening the future of work. Increasing automation and rapid technological change are threatening to widen skills gaps, while changing employment patterns mean gig workers have greater difficulty accessing formal learning and career development opportunities
  4. Increased hidden barriers for women. Women are increasingly attracted to gig work for the flexibility it provides. However, gender barriers persist, and women often lag behind men with due to pay gaps less available work

These are complex challenges that are hard to tackle. However, through a systemic approach, we can together identify the specific interventions needed to create a just and inclusive gig economy.

So, we've now begun outreach to build a community of global businesses that will engage actively to re-shape the gig economy in Europe.

The collaboration will begin in early 2021. Together, we will address the key problem areas that threaten to undermine the gig economy and its participants, and which lie at the intersection of social need and business opportunity.

In collaboration with a diverse group of cross-sector experts and gig economy stakeholders, we’ll explore and ideate around specific problem areas before incubating and launching projects to help solve them.

If you would like to take part or learn more, please connect with the project director of the initiative, Xynteo’s Philip Smith.