Education and Solidarity Network

Uberisation: good servant but bad masters

Education and Solidarity Network
December 19, 2016

According to the speakers on the panel “Uberisation and Health” organised by the International Association of Mutual Societies last November in Paris, 35% of the population of the United States work as freelancers and 40% of them say they can find a job in less than 48 hours via digital platforms.

The emergence of this “resourcefulness 2.0.” would be linked to several factors:

  • the employment crisis which has hit our Western societies for nearly a decade and which has forced the development of a “work on-demand” system;
  • the aspiration to autonomy and independence of new generations who position themselves in a logic of multi-activities in order to develop income-generating activities but also for the satisfaction of personal growth;
  • a context of urbanisation which sufficiently increases the density between clients and service providers in order to make a digital platform useful;
  • the growing tertiarisation of our economies with the development of services;
  • the eruption of technologies which facilitate and increase meeting online.

These digital platforms which unite “legally independent but economically dependent” workers would be “good servants but bad masters”. Although they can provide economic opportunities for additional income, for a lot of users they constitute a real poverty and instability trap. They promote casual work, professional isolation, a lack of adapted workspaces, administrative and legal complexity and difficulty in accessing ongoing training whilst offering no share in the added value.

So how do you improve the system? Firstly, by creating a social dialogue system between freelance workers and the platforms. Then by developing a type of social security in which these platforms could participate.

In Europe, working mutual societies (or activity and employment cooperatives) are starting to have the wind in their sails. These organisations allow anyone to have an employee status and to benefit from a range of administrative services (accounting, tax, insurance…) whilst remaining autonomous in their professional activities. The Belgian cooperative SMart (Mutual Society for Artists – Société Mutuelle pour Artistes) constitutes a European gem with its 75,000 members spread across 9 countries.

To find out more: The uberisation observatory:


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