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Nordic labour markets and the sharing economy National Background Reports

Nordic labour markets and the
sharing economy
National Background Reports
Stine Rasmussen, Per Kongshøj Madsen, Antti Saloniemi, Katrín
Ólafsdóttir, Jon Erik Dølvik, Kristin Jesnes, Bertil Rolandsson, Jesper
Petersson and Tomas Berglund
ISSN 2311-0562
This working paper has been published with financial support from the
Nordic Council of Ministers. However, the contents of this working paper do
not necessarily reflect the views, policies or recommendations of the
Nordic Council of Ministers.
Nordisk Council of MinistersVed Stranden 18 1061 Copenhagen K
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Contents .................................................................................................................................. 1
Nordic Labour Markets and the Sharing Economy – National Background Reports ................... 3
Denmark .................................................................................................................................. 5
1. Introduction .................................................................................................................... 5
2. Size of the sharing economy ............................................................................................ 7
3. Impacts of the sharing economy on working conditions, pay and employment relations . 11
4. Government and social partners’ approaches ................................................................. 11
5. Summary .......................................................................................................................16
Bibliography ...................................................................................................................... 17
Finland .................................................................................................................................... 18
1. Introduction ................................................................................................................... 18
2. Finland – an affluent economy in troubles? .....................................................................19
3. Non-standard employment in Finland ............................................................................ 21
4. The missing link of digitalization?.................................................................................. 24
5. The pending trend? ....................................................................................................... 25
Bibliography ..................................................................................................................... 28
Iceland ................................................................................................................................... 29
1. Introduction .................................................................................................................. 29
2. Size of the sharing economy ..........................................................................................30
3. Macroimpact and impact of the sharing economy on pay, working conditions, and
employment relations ............................................................................................. 33
4. Government and social partners’ approach to the sharing economy ............................... 35
5. Summary ....................................................................................................................... 37
Bibliography ......................................................................................................................39
Norway .................................................................................................................................. 40
1. Introduction .................................................................................................................. 40
2. Background .................................................................................................................. 40
3. Size of the sharing economy........................................................................................... 41
4. Implications for working conditions and employment relations ..................................... 45
5. Government and social partners’ approaches to the sharing economy ........................... 48
6. Summary and final remarks .......................................................................................... 52
Bibliography ...................................................................................................................... 55
Sweden ................................................................................................................................... 57
1. Introduction ................................................................................................................... 57
2. Size of the sharing economy ......................................................................................... 59
3. Impacts of the sharing economy on working conditions, pay, and employment relations 61
4. Government and social partners’ approaches to the sharing economy ............................63
5. Summary ...................................................................................................................... 65
Bibliography ...................................................................................................................... 67
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Nordic Labour Markets and the
Sharing Economy – National
Background Reports
Stine Rasmussen and Per Kongshøj Madsen
Antti Saloniemi
Katrín Ólafsdóttir
Jon Erik Dølvik and Kristin Jesnes
Bertil Rolandsson, Jesper Petersson and Tomas Berglund
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This collection of national background reports are produced as part of a pilot project
on Nordic Labour Markets and the Sharing Economy funded by the Nordic Council of
Ministers and organized by Fafo, Oslo. The aim of the pilot project was to facilitate
Nordic information exchange and provide a better knowledge base for developing
future Nordic studies in this area. As part of the project, Fafo invited a group of re-
searchers from all the Nordic countries to prepare short national background papers
and take part in a two day workshop in Oslo, 26-27 September 2016. The national
background papers were written within very restricted budget frames, and should be
read in combination with the overall report from the pilot project. The Nordic research
group has consisted of Antti Saloniemi (University of Tampere), Per Kongshøj-Madsen
and Stine Rasmussen (CARMA, Aalborg University), Anna Illsøe (FAOS, Copehagen
University), Bertil Rolandsson, Jesper Peterson and Tomas Berglund (University of
Gothenburg), Katrín Ólafsdóttir (Reykjavik University School of Business), and Jon
Erik Dølvik and Kristin Jesnes (Fafo).
In the work on the national background reports the contributors have benefitted from
interviews with a range of sharing economy experts, and social partner representa-
tives who generously have shared their knowledge and thoughts. Many thanks for
that! We would also like to thank the Labour Market Committee of the Nordic Council
of Ministers for funding the pilot study, its secretary Tryggvi Haraldsson for good sup-
port underway, and the participants in the Nordic research group for your enthusiastic
and insightful contributions to the pilot study.
Oslo, January 2017
Jon Erik Dølvik and Kristin Jesnes
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Stine Rasmussen & Per Kongshøj Madsen
Centre for Labour Market Research, Aalborg University
1. Introduction
As in many other countries, the issue of the sharing economy has rapidly reached the
top of the Danish agenda, both measured by media coverage and by the interest of
key political actors including the social partners.
Figure 1: Number of references to the Danish word for "sharing economy" in 17 Danish
national newspapers from 2012.1 to 2016.1. Source: Calculated by the authors on the
base of Infomedia.
The media coverage illustrated in figure 1 shows the number of references to the Dan-
ish word for ”sharing economy” (”deleøkonomi”) in seventeen printed news media
1. half
2. half
1. half
2. half
1. half
2. half
1. half
2. half
1. half
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from the first half of 2012 to the first half of 2016. The two observations from the first
half of 2012 are the earliest found in the Danish media database. As is evident from
figure 1, the media coverage took off during the second half of 2014 probably related
to the fact that the taxi platform Uber launched its services in Copenhagen in Novem-
ber 2014.
The alternative term ”platform economy” – or ”platformsøkonomi” in Danish – arrived
much later and still plays an insignificant role in the media. The first mentioning of this
term was in the second half of 2015, where the term occurred eight times. In the sec-
ond half of 2016 only two examples are found. This is in spite of the fact that the Con-
federation of Danish Trade Unions (LO) has tried to market this alternative term as
part of its critical approach to the sharing economy as further discussed below. The
struggle about the correct term to be used of course reflects the point that the Danish
word ”deleøkonomi” - like the English term ”sharing economy” - has a clear positive
connotation, while the term “platform economy” is more neutral and just refers to the
digital tool applied in the transactions. It therefore invites to a more balanced or even
critical assessment of the phenomena.
As discussed in detail in the subsequent section, a related point is that the activities
discussed under the heading of the new «sharing economy” covers a wide range of
activities from exchange of goods, rental of cars and accommodation to direct ex-
change of labour. Their common characteristic is simply that a digital platform is in-
volved. This aspect also adds to the fuzziness of the media coverage and the policy
debates. Given the focus of the present research, emphasis below will however be on
the labour market aspects of the sharing economy, where some sort of labour ex-
change is present.
Finally the rising media interest is mirrored by an increased attention from a number
of political actors. In most cases the actors try to take a balanced view, where they on
the one hand welcome the increased transparency in the markets, where digital plat-
forms are used and where they like the platforms for hotel booking (e.g. and - make it easier for consumers to navigate in the mar-
ket. Along the same line, Uber has also been welcomed as a new player in the market
for taxi services, which traditionally is highly regulated. For example the now former
Social Democratic Minister for Business Henrik Sass Larsen has stated that: ”One
must say that taking a taxi today is a pricey pleasure, and I think that it is great that
you can suddenly get someone in, who actually makes is affordable to be transported
around in a car" (quoted in Radio Denmark News, May 20, 2015, translated by the aut-
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hors). Not surprisingly this quote has later caused some critical remarks from trade
On the other hand, calls have also been made for more regulation of the “sharing
economy” in order to ensure among other things the safety of the participants and the
correct taxation of the revenues. The Government has also announced a white paper
to be published in September 2016. The paper will analyse both the merits and the
dangers of the sharing economy and the needs for regulation. These issues will be de-
alt with in further detail in section 4.
2. Size of the sharing economy
In Denmark, there is scarce knowledge about the size of the sharing economy measu-
red by the share of GDP or employment. Research from research institutions is practi-
cally non-existing, but a few surveys from market research institutes and interest
groups have been trying to map how many and who makes use of activities and ser-
vices in the sharing economy. In these studies the respondents have been asked bro-
adly about their use of activities and services in the sharing economy.
Results from surveys
A study from Gallup (a market research institute) asked an online panel in September
2015 if they had participated in the sharing economy during the last 6 months. Here,
sharing economy was exemplified as the use of AirBnb, Uber, GoMore (car-pooling) or
Resecond (exchange of dresses). In the survey 9 % answered yes. A year earlier the
share was 3 %. The study showed that young people and people with residence in the
capital are most likely to utilize the sharing economy. There was also a tendency to
find more participants either in the lowest or the highest income groups. The total
turnover in the activities measured in the survey was almost 1.2 billion DKK and the
total number of participants was estimated at 315,000 persons. The survey does not
allow for identifying the activities, which were directly related to the labour market
(Erichsen 2015, Nordea 2016).
A survey from Dansk Erhverv (the Confederation of Danish Enterprise) showed similar
results. Here, a representative section of the Danish population was asked in Septem-
ber 2015, if they had either used transportation services like Uber or Lyft or rented an
accommodation through AirBnB or similar services during the last 12 months. 5 % had
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used Uber or a similar service and 8 % had used AirBnb or a similar service and in total
almost 10 % of the population had used one or more of these services. In line with the
previous survey, this survey also showed that young people and citizens with resi-
dence in the capital or other large cities are more likely to utilize the sharing economy.
This survey also showed that initiatives in the sharing economy are often used when
travelling abroad (Munkøe et al. 2015).
Examples of individual activities directly involving employment
If we look broadly at the Danish sharing economy, there are a lot of different initia-
tives (around 100) but if we only are to focus on activities and services that directly
involve employment, the volume is more limited.
First of all we have Uber, which is probably the most debated initiative in the sharing
economy in Denmark. Uber came to Denmark in November 2014 and is so far only
located in Copenhagen. In a newspaper article from May 2016 it is estimated that
around 1700 Danes are registered as Uber drivers (Christensen 2016). Since Uber was
launched in Denmark, it’s been heavily debated among especially politicians and in-
terest groups (unions etc.), whether Uber is to be considered professional taxi driving
or not. Especially the traditional taxi business has protested strongly against Uber. In
July 2016 six Uber drivers were convicted of violating the taxi legislation by the munic-
ipal court in Copenhagen and convicted to pay a fine. The sentence was later con-
firmed by the “High Court”. This made the Public Prosecutor announce in early De-
cember 2016 that charges would now be raised directly towards the Dutch company
Uber BV, which is behind Uber’s activities in Denmark. At the time of writing Uber is
however still operating in Copenhagen.
Besides Uber there are a number of initiatives in the Danish sharing economy that has
directly to do with labour exchange. One example is Meploy which is a website descri-
bed as a ”supplement to the existing job market” aimed at young people and stu-
dents, where firms and individuals can hire other individuals (not professionals) to car-
ry out certain tasks for payment (Svansø, 2016). The concept is that firms or individu-
als can create a so- called ”ploy” on the website, which is a short description of the
task they want someone to complete and then individuals can apply for that ploy.
Thereafter the firm or the individual decide which one to hire for the job. It must be
possible to complete the task between 1 and 7 hours, and the hourly pay is 150 Danish
kroner (around 20 Euros). A fee of 5 percent is charged by Meploy.
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The CEO of Meploy has explicitly stated the firm has aimed at taking into account the
worries of the trade unions (Svansø, 2016). Thus the hourly wage level of 150 DKK (20
Euro) is calculated in order to allow the workers to pay for pensions and insurance in
addition to the minimum wage for unskilled workers in the collective agreements. To
avoid tax evasion, the firm has also set a limit, so people who don’t have a VAT num-
ber are blocked from seeking new jobs, when they have earned more than 50,000 DKK
(6,700 Euro) in a year.
Payment takes place through the website and after the task is completed, the persons
involved write a recommendation of each other. The ploys on the website mainly have
to do with painting, gardening, bartending and ‘handyman-like’ tasks. It’s not been
possible to find out how widespread MePloy is, but when searching the website in Oc-
tober 2016 a very limited number of ploys seem to be present (below 10). However,
the founder of MePloy has in an interview in a newspaper article from October 2016
stated that more than 2500 persons have signed up at the website and that around
500 jobs have been offered (Svansø 2016). The website was launched in the end of
2015 and so far only in Copenhagen.
We have also found other examples of similar concepts, for instance,, and AHandyHand is similar to MePloy
(exchange of labour), has existed since 2009 and covers the entire country. The jobs
available range from ‘handyman-like’ tasks, babysitting and cleaning to computer as-
sistance. According to the website around 6000 persons offer their help and as op-
posed to MePloy no fixed hourly pay exists, but the website has examples of what is
appropriate wages for different tasks ranging from 60-100 Danish kroner (8-13 Euro)
for individuals below the age of 18 and 100-300 Danish kroner (13-40 Euro) for individ-
uals over the age of 18. There is also not an upper limit as to how many hours the indi-
viduals can use in order to complete the tasks. and
seems similar to and is also the provider of more sta-
ble after-school jobs for young people. is also similar to the before mentio-
ned initiatives in terms of exchange of labour and covers all sorts of jobs performed by
both professionals and individuals (photography, different types of therapists, baby-
sitting, cleaning, teaching, plumbing etc.), but is also engaged in letting out personal
belongings. Common for the different initiatives is that the firm behind the website
takes a certain amount of money in commission in order to match the workers and
jobs or a fee in order to have a profile on the website.
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We have also found that Upwork has Danish jobs and Danish freelancers affiliated.
According to a study by CEVEA (a Danish think thank) 1621 Danish freelancers are
signed up at Upwork and 163 of them have carried out tasks (CEVEA 2015:41).
Attitudes towards the sharing economy
Finally one can mention that the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has con-
ducted two surveys among its members and potential members concerning their per-
ception of the sharing economy (LO 2016a, LO 2016b). Given the target group, the
main results are hardly surprising.
When asked about the negative effects of the sharing economy, a majority of bet-
ween half and two thirds points to unfair competition, the evasion of tax payment and
lack of basic rights like maternity leave and sickness pay. However, when asked to
balance the positive and negative effects a large minority of around 40 % state that
they do not know. In addition 36 % in the latest survey find both positive and negative
effects. This is a decline from 45 % in the first survey. On the other hand 22 % in the
latest survey find only negative effect compared to 11 % in the first survey. The share
finding only positive effects is only 2 to 3 %. Thus the surveys reveal a significant
uncertainty in the assessment of the sharing economy, but also a tendency towards
an increasingly sceptical attitude among the LO-membership.
Similarly the trade union organising salaried workers (HK) has conducted a survey
among its members about their attitudes towards seeking employment using digital
platforms like Upwork (Redder, 2016). Around half of the members would never
consider this option. Their major worry was the lack of basic in-work benefits like sick-
ness pay, paid vacation and training.
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3. Impacts of the sharing economy on working conditions, pay and
employment relations
Given the sparse knowledge on the extent and content of the Danish sharing economy
there is also little, if any, knowledge about its impact on working conditions, pay and
employment conditions.
This situation must also be seen in the light of the fact that work and pay conditions
on the Danish labour market traditionally have been regulated through collective ag-
reements, although EU-regulations have played an increasing role in recent years.
However, there is no legally binding minimum wage in Denmark and therefore no
formal issue concerning the pay conditions on the Danish sharing economy. Many
collective agreements will have a “minimum wage” (typically around 120 DKK/16 Euro
per hour for adult workers), but this is only binding for employees directly covered by
the agreement. Comparing the minimum wage in the collective agreements with the
hourly wages from the labour-exchange platforms quoted in the previous section, the
latter do not seem to be totally out of line. However, it should be added that the aver-
age wage for unskilled adult workers is significantly higher than the minimum wage –
around 200 DKK per hour (around 27 Euro) (2014).
A further issue concerns the fact that many of the persons working in the sharing eco-
nomy will have an uncertain status with respect to being employees or self-employed
(cf. the debate about the Uber-drivers) and it is also not evident how the work these
persons are carrying out is regulated and protected.
These issues have of course been in the focus of the trade unions. In the following sec-
tion the reactions of the main Danish trade unions as well as other political actors are
4. Government and social partners’ approaches
In this section we look at the attitudes and policies presented by the main political
actors in response to the growth of the platform economy.
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The Government
So far, the present Danish liberal government has expressed a positive view on the
sharing economy. The Danish Minister for Business and Growth Troels Lund Poulsen
has stated that he sees a large potential in the sharing economy, because it creates
growth and wealth. He therefore aims at integrating the different services in the shar-
ing economy more into the Danish economy. To support this, he will launch a com-
prehensive strategy concerning the sharing economy in Denmark, which is to be pub-
lished in 2017.
In addition the recent long-term growth strategy from the Government published in
August 2016 has a section on the sharing economy (Regeringen 2016:37-38). Here the
Government again states that a more comprehensive strategy will be published later
in the fall. The strategy will ensure a more transparent framework in general areas
such as taxation and consumer protection etc. In addition the following more specific
points are mentioned:
The government will increase the existing basic tax allowance in connection with the rental of sec-
ond homes and room rental by 10,000 DKK. The allowance for rental of holiday homes will in addi-
tion be increased by 5,000 DKK. The extra allowance is made conditional on the reporting of taxa-
ble income to the tax authorities through a rental agency or a digital platform.
In addition, the government will examine the possibility of introducing a general basic tax allo-
wance for activities in the sharing economy in order to increase the incentives to participate in it.
Again this will be conditional on “automatic” reporting to the tax authorities through a digital plat-
In order to support the use of digital reporting platforms voluntary agreements
will be made with actors in the sharing economy and marketing efforts made towards the
citizens, share economic platforms etc.
Private individuals' use of digital payment also provides a new opportunity to creating an easy digi-
tal path for reporting to the tax authorities. A dialogue with the financial sector will be initiated in
order to mainstream reporting solutions in existing payment services, for instance for payment for
services between private individuals.
Thus the Government’s focus at present seems to be almost solely on issues of taxa-
tion. Whether the final strategy will be more comprehensive or visionary remains to
be seen.
Finally the growth of the platform economy has given rise to new challenges for regu-
lation not only with respect to taxation and consumer protection, but also to within
other policy areas. A recent example is related to a new requirement stipulating that
unemployed recipients of social cash benefits must have ordinary employment for at
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least 225 hours a year in order to receive the full benefits. At present it is unclear,
whether temporary employment arranged via a digital platform will let the unem-
ployed person qualify for further cash benefits. The assessment of many jobcentres is
that such employment cannot be seen as ordinary employment, because the necessa-
ry documentation in the form of an employment contract and payslips will not be
available (Tybjerg, 2016).
The Danish National Confederation of Trade Unions (LO)
In May 2016 LO published a report focused on the challenges posed by the sharing
economy and the strategy to be pursued in relation hereto (LO, 2016c). In addition LO
has conducted some survey about the attitudes towards the sharing economy (cf. the
data reported in section 2).
In its report LO first discusses some conceptual issues along the lines of the discussi-
ons in the first section of the present report. As already indicated in the introduction,
a major point for LO is to distinguish between the concepts of sharing economy (“de-
leøkonomi”) and of platform economy (“platformsøkonomi”). Here sharing economy
should generally describe non-profit activities like carpooling, etc. On the other hand
the notion of platform economy should be used to describe profit-seeking companies,
whose business models are based on digital platforms. LO finds that the platform
economy should be welcomed, but only if it is in accordance with Danish legislation
and the Danish labour market model.
In addition LO points to the need to distinguish between business models based on
peer-to-peer interaction and on business to customer interaction. In the first case the
digital platform connects individual sellers and buyers of goods or services. Airbnb is
an example of a profit-seeking business based on this model. In the second model the
same firm uses the platform to connect to several consumers. The car-sharing com-
pany Car2go is an example of this model. One may add that in Denmark it closed
down its operations in February 2016 after 17 months due to a lack of customers.
The distinction between peer-to-peer models and business to consumer models is
however not clear-cut. For instance Uber has can be seen as representing both busi-
ness models depending on whether one considers the individual taxi drivers to be em-
ployed by Uber or to be individuals offering car sharing services. In the various legal
allegations against Uber and its drivers the choice between these two perspectives is
of course a core issue.
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In its discussion of the consequences of the platform economy, LO not surprisingly
focuses on those platforms, which directly involves employment (including self-
employment). Here a number of challenges are identified and later illustrated using
Uber as the case (LO 2016c:14-21):
Lack of implementation of existing legislation for instance with respect to safety
at work, often due to the fact the existing legislation is not adapted to the use of
digital platforms
Tax evasion
Missing monitoring of rules concerning insurance, authorization etc.
Lack of basic right for employees like sickness pay, paid vacation etc. This is often
related to the unclear status of the involved persons as either employees or self-
Following the identification of these challenges, LO proposes both better implemen-
tation of existing legislation and a number of new initiatives. Finally the LO discusses
the need for trade unions to include the employers and employees of the platform
economy into the organised labour market. This call for overcoming barriers due to
the resistance of the employers involved, but also due to the facts that those employ-
ed in the platform economy mostly work separated from one another and without a
sense of common professional identity.
Other trade unions
In addition to LO other large trade unions have also been active concerning the chal-
lenges posed by the platform economy. Thus HK, which organises salaried workers,
has recruited new personnel and trained their employees in order to offers better as-
sistance to members, if they ask for advice in relation to take work through a Danish
or foreign platform. Along similar lines the Danish Confederation of Professional As-
sociations (Akademikerne) has stated that the unions clearly have a role to play in en-
suring the rights of the new independent workers. Together the two unions have an-
nounced that they will establish a task force of experts, which will come up with con-
crete solutions to some of the many challenges that follow in the wake of platform
economy. The task force will consist of leading representatives of IT companies, plat-
form companies, trade unions, employers and researchers. For a more detailed analy-
sis of the responses of Danish trade unions to the challenges of digitalisation, refer-
ence can be made to Ilsøe (forthcoming).
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Employer’s organizations
While the national trade unions have been very active in the debate on the sharing
economy, the national employer’s organisations have been more reluctant to express
strong and detailed view.
The website of the Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) has only one document
related to the sharing economy. It is a brief reply to a hearing concerning a Commissi-
on Communication on the sharing economy from June 16, 2016. The main message is
that existing regulation is sufficient to cope with the challenges from the sharing eco-
nomy, when it comes to employment relations. There is therefore no need for further
The Confederation of Danish Industry has some references to the sharing economy as
part of its strategy towards environmental issues and the circular economy (Dansk
Industri, 2015), but no comprehensive analysis or policy statements.
The Confederation of Danish Enterprise (Dansk Erhverv), whose membership consists
of firms that are mainly oriented towards the domestic market, has published a brief
analysis of the concept of the sharing economy and a survey on the use of mainly Uber
and Airbnb (Dansk Erhverv 2015). It has also on a number of occasions expressed a
positive attitude towards activities in the sharing economy, but at the same time poin-
ted to the need for fair competition including compliance with national tax laws.
The most critical voices towards activities in the sharing economy has – not sur-
prisingly – been raised by employers organisation’s that represent businesses that are
most directly affected by the present large platform operator, especially Uber and
Thus, Dansk Taxi Råd (Danish Taxi Council), which organises the majority of taxi com-
panies, has taken a critical attitude towards Uber and at the same time called for a
modernisation and liberalisation of the complicated laws that at present regulate the
taxi business. The main claim is thus that a level playing field should be created, where
platform based services will compete with other providers of transport services on
equal conditions. Here protection of customers and ensuring compliance with lax le-
gislation are key issues. Together with other employers organisations involved in the
taxi business a proposal for reform was sent to the Minister of Transportation in Octo-
ber 2015 (Dansk Taxi Råd et al, 2015).
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Along the same lines the largest employers organisation for the hotel-, restaurant and
tourism-sector HORESTA has criticised Airbnb for unfair competition and called for a
tighter monitoring of the taxable incomes from the individuals that rent their homes
through Airbnb and for giving them the same obligation as the traditional hotel busi-
ness, when it comes to compliance with consumer safety, statistical reporting etc.
5. Summary
As in many other countries the issue of the “sharing economy” has rapidly risen to the
top of the public agenda, both measured by media attention and by the interest of the
main political actors.
In spite hereof, our knowledge about both the content and the extent of the activities
in the sharing economy is still scattered. This is to a large degree caused by the vagu-
eness of the concept of the sharing economy itself. Also, the question of the term to
use to describe the phenomena is an issue. Some actors thus argue that the correct
term should be the “digital platform economy” in order to stress the main new feature
of the activities in this sector.
Due to the ambiguity of the concept our knowledge about the consequences of the
platform economy is also fuzzy. Focusing on the platforms related to labour exchan-
ge, they mainly seem to offer jobs at the lower end of the pay scale, but no hard evi-
dence is available.
Furthermore, in spite of the political focus on the issue, no new regulations or policies
has yet been introduced. Several political actors including the social partners have
called for interventions that create a more level playing field for both traditional firms
and the new platform based activities, but apart from a district court ruling against the
activities of Uber, no concrete initiatives have yet been taken. The trade unions have
also started to develop a strategy to support the basic right of members working in
the platforms, but also in this area there are few actual initiatives.
Finally, the Government has announced a strategy directed at the “sharing economy”
or “platform economy” to be published later in the fall. The strategy will both focus on
worker and consumer safety and on various tax issues.
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Dansk Erhverv (2015). Deleøkonomien på fremmarch. Copenhagen.
Dansk Taxi Råd et al. (2015). Revision af taxiloven – brancheopfordring. October 30, 2015. Co-
DI (2015). DI’s miljø og ressourcepolitik. Copenhagen.
CEVEA (2015). Digitale trends og det danske arbejdsmarked. Analyse. Copenhagen.
Christiansen, J. H. (2016). Fynske taxier afventer Uber-sag. Article in Fyens Stiftstidende 30 May
Erhvervsstyrelsen (2015 unpublished). Deleøkonomiens udbredelse blandt danskerne.
Henriksen, M. (2016). Regeringen vil styrke deleøkonomien. Article at 19 May 2016.
HK (2015 unpublished). Note vedr. størrelsen af deleøkonomi i Danmark.
Ilsøe, A. (forthcoming). Digitalizing service work – social partner responses in Denmark, Swe-
den and Germany. Transfer, 23, 2017.
LO (2016a). Måling om platformsøkonomi. 23 March 2016. Copenhagen.
LO (2016b). Måling om platformsøkonomi. 14 June 2016. Copenhagen.
LO (2016c). Platformsøkonomi – lovgivningsmæssige udfordringer og fagbevægelsens løsningsfor-
slag. 3 May2016. Copenhagen.
Munkøe, M., Ravn, J., & Christensen, G. L. (2015). Deleøkonomien på fremmarch. Dansk Er-
hvervs Perspektiv 2015:21.
Nordea (2016). Deleøkonomi 2016. Copenhagen,
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October 2016.
Regeringen (2016). Et stærkere Danmark Vækst 2016. August 2016.
Svansø, V. L. (2016). Yngre medlemmer af fagforbundet HK er åbne over for en ny økonomi og
et nyt arbejdsmarked, hvor de skal finde job som digitale selvstændige via apps og hjemmesi-
der. Berlingske Business ( 24.10.2016.
Tybjerg, J. (2016). 225-timers reglen: Rengøringsarbejde for app tæller ikke. Ugebrevet A4, 2
November 2016.
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Antti Saloniemi, University of Tampere, Finland
1. Introduction
“You don’t want the drill – you want the hole.” The widely quoted slogan above illu-
strates the logic of the sharing economy and challenges the necessity of ownership: is
there really a need to own a drill if your real need is a hole in a wall? Most of the time
the drill sits unused in the toolbox. Correspondingly, private cars remain unused for
most of the day; even when they are used, most often there is only one passenger.
Similarly, homes are perhaps not inhabited all of the time. The sharing economy asks
“why not” share your drill, car, or home? It is possible to validate this type of thinking
from the point of sustainable development. Instead of increasing consumption, more
attention should be paid to the optimal use of already existing resources (e.g. Bots-
man & Rogers 2010.)
The situation becomes more complicated when we follow up the drill example with a
(realistic) thought experiment: if the basic aim is the hole, perhaps we don’t want to
hire only a drill, but someone to use it as well. On some scale, the option is already
available today. In the wake of the physical means of production, human labour is cre-
eping into the sharing economy as well.
In itself, the sharing economy formulates a dualistic vision, as C.J. Martin (2016) puts it
in the title of her article: “The sharing economy: A pathway to sustainability or a
nightmarish form of neoliberal capitalism?” The logic of the sharing economy simul-
taneously includes the potential for sustainable consumption and a decentralized,
equitable economy, on the one hand, and for unregulated markets for goods, services,
and labour, on the other. One of the grand stories around the evolution of modern
wage labour is its decommodification, a process where workers and citizens are freed
from absolute market dependency. As a result, in the state of mature wage labour, the
status of labour in the market is no longer absolutely identical to that of other means
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of production. In the most dystopian of visions, the implementation of the sharing
economy in the labour market will be a way to reintroduce pre-modern forms of wage
labour (Siltala 2016).
In discussions about the sharing economy, it is common to lament the vagueness of
the concept. It seems to refer to the accumulation of things from flee-markets and
Wikipedia to start-up enterprises and Uber taxis. The lowest common denominator of
all this seems to be technology, or – to be more precise digitalization. In its modern
form, the sharing economy involves the application of modern technology, even if the
service itself is simply cleaning or car driving. Another term, the platform economy, is
often used alongside the sharing economy; it refers specifically to those new tools
that make connections between the client and the customer easier than ever. Howe-
ver, new digital connection means are changing the links between producers pro-
foundly as well. The connections between digitalization, the sharing economy, and
the platform economy are relatively unclear, both in scientific and public discussion.
(Sundararajan 2016).
The purpose of this text is to outline and contextualize the link between the labour
market and the sharing economy from the Finnish perspective. We can start with the
conclusion: until recently discussions on the labour market and the sharing economy
met each other only incidentally. However, the need for an integrative discussion has
been recognized widely.
The themes of lifestyle, consumption, and a sustainable economy have been the main
frames in which the dimensions of the sharing economy have been dealt with. Even in
serious re-evaluations that are seeking ways of implementing a sustainability econo-
my, the sharing economy is conceptualized, but in a way where the fate of wage la-
bour plays only a marginal role (Jakonen & Silvasti 2015; Joutsenvirta et al. 2016).
2. Finland – an affluent economy in troubles?
The figures below illustrate the two mutually interwoven key problems of the Finnish
labour market and economy in general. First of all, the employment rate has stabilized
at a relatively low level (Figure 1). At the beginning of 2016, it was 66.8 per cent (15-64
years). In the current context there is no gender difference: the rate is 66.6 for men
and 66.9 for women. This situation is far from satisfactory; one of the main goals of
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the current government is to raise the employment rate to 72 per cent. In practice, the
rate has never reached this level, even before the great Finnish recession of the 1990s.
Figure 1. Productivity in Finland 1975-2014 (1975= 100). Source: Statistics Finland.
Another source of continuous concern is the trend in productivity. Even in the deepest
years of the aforementioned recession, there was a steady growth in productivity up
to 2008. At the beginning of the latest economic crisis, productivity fell remarkably,
and since then development has been unstable: no steady growth in productivity has
been achieved.
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Figure 2. Employment rate in Finland 1989 – 2016 (the first quartile of the year). Sour-
ce: Statistics Finland.
Both of these concerns are linked with questions concerning the platform/sharing
economy, although from different angles.
3. Non-standard employment in Finland
Compared to the other Nordic countries, Finland is a latecomer as a society based on
wage labour. The country’s long agrarian tradition coupled with the heritage of World
War II generated a situation in which the proportions of employees in the primary,
secondary and tertiary sectors were equal still in the early 1960s. Paradoxically, despi-
te the late formation, the result has been a rigid wage labour society; for those who
are employed, the status of full-timer has been the rule. Part-time work, for men as
well as women, has been much less common than in the other Nordic countries (see
e.g. Kangas & Saloniemi 2013.)
The proportion of employees working full-time on permanent contracts has remained
surprising constant over the last twenty years (Figure 3). From this point of view, po-
pular arguments that normal forms of wage labour are in decline hardly gain support
in evidence.
Tot Male Female
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Figure 3. Employment rate in Finland 1997-2016 (the first quartile of the year). Source:
Statistics Finland.
Nevertheless, there is no reason to underestimate the changes behind the broad
overview. Figures 4 and 5 depict the trends of work outside normal (permanent, full-
time) contracts. As the Finnish labour markets are highly segregated by gender, these
trends are displayed separately for men and women.
Total Men Women
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Figure 4. Number (1000) of male fixed-term employees, part-time employees and self-
employer 1997-2016 (the first quartile of the year).
Figure 5. Number (1000) of female fixed-term employees, part-time employees and
self-employed 1997-2016 (the first quartile of the year).
Part-time Fixed-term Self-emp.
Part-time Fixed-term Self-emp.
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The changes in fixed-term employment are modest for both men and women. There
is, however, an increasing trend in part-time work. In 1997, 51,000 men and 135,000
women worked part-time; the number of men working part-time has doubled over
twenty years (106, 000 in 2016), and the increase was strong for women as well
(218,000 in 2016).
Young and educated people are the most dominant group in fixed-term employment.
Respectively, family reasons and studies are the most common reasons for part-time
work. One in three listed the lack of full-time work as the reason for part-time work.
(Sutela & Lehto 2013.)
For the main goal of this paper, a third group – those in non-standard work – is the
most important. Among men, the self-employed are the largest group of non-
standard workers. In 2016, the number of self-employed males was 114,000, whereas
twenty years ago the number was 75,000. Most of the rise came before the sharing
economy occurred. There has been an increase in self-employment among women as
well (from 47,000 in 1996 to 71,000 in 2016), but this type of working is clearly more
common among men.
Statistics Finland has produced an extensive study on the self-employed (Pärnänen &
Sutela 2013). The study also covered the economic and work quality dimensions of
their situation. As expected, the self-employed were an extremely heterogeneous
group. As a rule, their incomes were clearly lower compared with those of employees.
Still, in many dimensions of the quality of working life, the self-employed held the
upper hand. The study also showed that about twenty per cent reported being self-
employed because it was the only option.
4. The missing link of digitalization?
Although the sharing economy with its threats and possibilities is not a leading theme
in Finnish labour market debates, it would be misleading to argue that the questions
and problems linked to the erosion of standard wage labour are totally absent from
the Finnish discussion. Above all, research activity around non-standard work has
been substantial.
Administrative logic has had to react as well. As mentioned earlier, Finland’s version
of the wage labour society is young but rigid. The general assumption has been that
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people are either full time employees or completely out of work. In essence, the whole
social security system is set according to this supposition. The increasing diversity in
the forms of work has challenged this norm, and step by step, more or less incremen-
tal renewals have been carried out. This process has also generated a number of ad-
ministrative reports on the changing conditions of work.
Traditionally, and with good reasons, trade unions have seen the new forms of work
as a threat: the erosion of stable work diminishes the power of worker collectives and
limits in this way also the collective power of the unions . The new situation has pro-
voked union related “who is in and who is out” problems as well: are the union clubs
only for those with traditional, permanent contracts? In recent years, the unions have
purposefully developed their strategies to make the interests of non-standard em-
ployees more visible. Not surprisingly, the union for private sector service workers
(PAM) has been the most active in this process.
In recent years, the question of the self-employed has made a breakthrough. The first
covering study was published by Pärnänen and Sutela (2013). The topic has raised in-
creasing attention, including among unions: Akava (Confederation of Unions for Pro-
fessional and Managerial Staff in Finland) has in particular been active in creating new
openings for this group.
5. The pending trend?
Above, I outlined some forms of non-standard work in Finland. Despite some issues ,
especially self employment, coming relatively close to the ideas of the sharing econ-
omy and its implications for the labour market, hardly any systematic research is
available, even about the basic characteristics of the sharing economy phenomenon.
From this point of view, the situation is different from the other Nordic countries. Still,
it is rising in the public discussion. Figure 6 depicts the situation.
Figure 6. Google hits for “jakamistalous” [sharing economomy] and “alustatalous”
[platform economy] 2008 – 2016 (October).
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The basis of the figure – the number of Google hits for “jakamistalous” (sharing econ-
omy) and “alustatalous” (platform economy) – is far from reliable. Nevertheless, it
depicts two trends: the use of the terms started very recently, but the increase is re-
markable. Another issue worthy of attention is that the notion “sharing economy”
seems to be much more common than “platform economy”. In Finland, the latter
term refers much more directly to the sphere of the economy, whereas the former
term perhaps refers more to consumption and lifestyles, etc. This might confirm the
suspicion presented earlier: in the Finnish discussion, the emphasis in the discussion
on the sharing economy is more focused on consumption and lifestyles than on the
labour market.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Uber taxi service has been the form of business that has
prompted public debate related to the sharing economy. Uber arrived in Helsinki
three years ago. From its launch, Uber’s legal status in Finland was unclear until au-
tumn 2016, when the Court of Appeal stated that driving for Uber contravenes Finnish
legislation. Besides the sharing economy, the Uber case has illustrated contradictory
interests regarding the general deregulation pressures of the Finnish private hire indu-
stry in general. Occurring almost simultaneously with the legal verdict, a bitter politi-
cal struggle over deregulation has come to its conclusion. The compromise loosens
permit conditions for taxi driving remarkably, but the period of transition is long; the
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Plattform ecoomy Sharing economy
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new rules do not take full effect until 2018. An interesting detail in the new regulations
is the statement about language: fluent Finnish is a condition for a taxi license. Cur-
rently, working for Uber is illegal, but it is hard to believable the resolution has elimi-
nated Uber from Finland.
A quick glance at the Finnish sharing/platform debate from the point of working life
does not reveal a great deal. Those engaged in the debate – including researchers and
policymakers – are not blind to the changes in how work is done. Still, the logic of plat-
forms and sharing is not the focus of the discussions. An illustrative fact is that even
rough estimations about the number of people utilizing or working in the sharing eco-
nomy are not available. At the same time, the importance of getting a better grasp of
the new phenomenon is being acknowledged: the new digital society is soon coming –
in fact, it is already here.
As anticipated, the first concrete marks of awakening are seminars, references in im-
portant public speeches, and so on (e.g. Mahdollisuuksien aika 2016, Työn murros
2015). The digitalization of work is regularly the broader concept under which the sha-
ring economy is introduced.
As usual, when questions about the future arise, the prospects are littered with con-
cerns. The first set of concerns relate to productivity. The report “Is Finland about to
miss the platform economy train?” (Ailisto ym. 2016) summarizes the worries about
the insufficient interest in utilizing the latest digital technology by Finnish companies.
As the name of the report indicates, in the era of the Nokia hang-over, Finland is no
longer at the forefront of new technology. Despite its name, the report makes only
marginal references to the labour market.
In addition to concerns about low productivity, there are concerns linked to employ-
ment. The sharing economy is seen as a tool to pull up the employment rate. Even
fragmented work can be a stepping stone out of unemployment and inactivity. This is
a reason for promotion of the new forms of work. In terms of policy recommenda-
tions, increasing deregulation is certainly the predominant tendency (e.g. Vartianen
2016). Alternatively, the new labour market trends are seen as a return to the miseries
of pre-modern forms of wage labour (Siltala 2016). There is something common to
these mind-sets: both seems to be more based on the inner desires or fears of those
making the recommendations than on empirical evidence.
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Ailisto, H. (ed.), Collin, J. (ed.), Juhanko, J. (ed.), Mäntylä, M. (ed.), Ruutu, S. (ed.), Seppälä, T.
(ed.), Halén, M., Hiekkanen, K., Hyytinen, K., Kiuru, E., Korhonen, H., Kääriäinen, J., Parviai-
nen, P., Talvitie, J. (2016). Onko Suomi jäämässä alustatalouden junasta? ETLA.
Botsman, R., & Rogers, R. (2010). What’s Mine Is Yours. HarperBusiness.
Jakonen, M., & Silvasti, T. (2015). Talouden uudet muodot. Gaudeamus.
Joutsenvirta, M., Hirvilammi, T., Ulvila, M., & Wilen, K. (2016). Talous kasvun jälkeen. Into.
Kangas, O., & Saloniemi, A. (2013). Historical making, present and future challenges for the Nor-
dic welfare state model in Finland. Oslo: Fafo-report 2013:40.
Mahdollisuuksisen aika (2016). SAK.
Martin, C. (2016). The sharing economy: A path way to sustainability or nightmarish from of
neoliberal capitalism? Ecological Economics, 121, 149-159.
Pärnänen, A., & Sutela H. (2013). Itsensä työllistäjät Suomessa. Tilastokeskus.
Siltala, J. (2016). Työnantajan alaisena ilman työsuhdetta. Kalevi Sorsa säätiö.
Sundararajan, A. (2016). The sharing economy. The end of employment and the rise of crowd-
based capitalism. MIT Press.
Sutela, H., & Lehto, A-M. (2014). Työolojen muutokset 1977-2013. Tilastoksekus.
Työn murros. (2015). STTK
Vartiainen, J. (2016). Uber ja sen kaltaiset uutuudet. Suomen kuvalehti 15.
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Katrín Ólafsdóttir, Reykjavík University, Iceland
October, 2016
1. Introduction
Rachel Botsman (2015) defines the sharing economy as ”an economic system based
on sharing underused assets or services, for free or for a fee, directly from individuals.”
The term ‘sharing economy’ is often used in a wider context and in fact, many terms
are being used, often interchangeably, such as ‘gig’ economy, ‘digital’ economy and
‘platform’ economy. In most cases what we consider the sharing economy makes use
of existing resources, especially capital, in new and inventive ways. The sharing eco-
nomy usually does not require additional investment, but a way for individuals to ge-
nerate income from items such as housing and automobiles, using this investment to
generate revenues while not in private use. The sharing economy is not limited to the
use of physical capital, it also entails possibilities for alternative uses of an individual’s
human capital.
This development would be unthinkable without the use of latest technology which
reduces the transaction cost, often by providing platforms in the form of computer
programs that are easily accessible and user friendly in the form of apps. Furthermore,
the deep recession that hit Iceland in late 2008 triggered a change in attitude among
Icelanders. While ownership of things had until then been very important, the reces-
sion led to it becoming more accepted to utilize your ownership and offer services to
others. This, coupled with the rising tourism in Iceland as the number of tourists vi-
siting quadrupled between 2000 and 2015 (Iceland Tourist Board, n.d.), Iceland would
have quickly reached saturation point were it not for the additional flexible capital
stock in the form of private homes, that has allowed the growth in tourism to conti-
Firms operating in the sharing economy are often based on low fixed cost, i.e. their
capital is limited, and reputation in the sharing economy is valuable. The sharing eco-
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nomy takes on many different forms, there are social media, peer to peer, platforms,
crowd sourcing, electronic market places, and collaborative consumption. The suppli-
er is often referred to as a micro entrepreneur and as he or she can be both producer
and consumer, a new term has been coined, prosumer (Jónsson and Sæmundsson
2014). The sharing economy consists of buying and selling of used goods (Craig´s list,
Ebay, Bland), direct rent of property (Airbnb, Uber, Lyft), direct sale of goods and ser-
vices (Etsy, Feastly) and as a platform to exchange favors or pay for minor jobs (Ta-
skRabbit, Timebank).
All those that have discussed the effects of the sharing economy seem to agree that
the sharing economy is here to stay. None of them suggest that policies should aim at
getting rid of the sharing economy, rather that regulators make sure that there is a
level playing field. This requires a new way of thinking as in the sharing economy the
lines between individuals and firms, employees and employers, have become blurred.
2. Size of the sharing economy
The sharing economy has been around for a long time as people have been helping
each other out with favors throughout history. Only with the latest technology, with
the Great Recession playing a part, has this type of operation become more wide-
spread. Also, many transactions that previously were without remuneration, have now
become lucrative, especially for the middleman who provides the platform technology
that matches provider and consumer.
Very little is known about the size of the sharing economy in Iceland and estimates are
hard to come by. Whether the sharing economy is captured by the traditional
measures of labor force participation and work hours is hard to say. Labor force partic-
ipation rates are very high in Iceland (88%) and average work hours are 39-40 hours a
week (Statistics Iceland, n.d.). One possible indicator of an increased participation in
the sharing economy is whether a growing share of the labor force is classified as self-
employed. There is no indication of this development in the Icelandic labor market as
a constant or even falling share of the labor force is classified as self-employed as
shown in figure 1. However, it is not uncommon for Icelanders to have more than one
job and thus, individuals might participate in the sharing economy on a part-time ba-
sis in addition to their regular job.
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Figure 1. Forms of employment in Iceland 2003-2015.
So far the operation of the sharing economy in Iceland seems to be limited to utilizing
previously unused capital. That type of operation does not have large effects on the
labor market as few new jobs are created.
Icelanders make use of various websites when participating in the sharing economy,
some are Icelandic, some are international and some are Icelandic adaptations of in-
ternational websites. The potential for participating in the sharing economy is high as
housing and automobiles, two items often offered for use in the sharing economy,
account for 40% of household outlays in Iceland on average (Kristjánsdóttir 2015).
These are also in great demand due to the growth in the tourism sector.
A widely used website in Iceland by Icelanders is, where goods and services
are offered for sale. The website carries mostly used good for sale, similar to ebay.
There are also many pages on Facebook where individuals can sell or give things
away, even pages where they can give their leftover food.
There are various websites that offer the use of automobiles. There are at least two
websites, and, that offer private cars for rent. These websites work
just like a car rental agency, but using cars owned by individuals who offer their cars
when not in personal use. There is an Icelandic website where people
86 86 86 85 86 87 88 87 87 88 87 88 88
14 14 14 15 14 13 12 13 13 13 13 13 12
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Employees Self-employed
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can get together for carpooling, either for free or where the passengers share petrol
costs. Furthermore, there are groups on Facebook (Skutlarar) that offer rides to pe-
ople, often for payment, although most of this operation is not covered by law. Uber,
however, which is available in over 500 cities worldwide ( does not
operate in Iceland.
Airbnb is probably the best known company in Iceland that belongs to the sharing
economy. Rooms and apartments are on offer all around the country. The number of
beds offered on Airbnb in Reykjavik increased from 1.200 in December 2014, to 2.700
in November 2015 or by 125% in less than a year (Íslandsbanki 2016). From November
2014 to November 2015 it is estimated that overnight stays booked through Airbnb
numbered 358 thousand in Reykjavík. In comparison, overnight stays in hotels in Rey-
kjavík were 1.782 thousand during the same period. Thus, overnight stays in Airbnb
amount to 20% of overnight stays in hotels. During high season in August 2015, this
share was higher or 33% (Íslandsbanki 2016). Thus, the sharing economy bore the
brunt of the increased demand in high season, showing the advantages of flexible ca-
pital stock.
With the wide-spread offering of housing on Airbnb, there are now companies in Ice-
land (for example Rvk Apartments, Umsjón and Leigðu út) which offer to take care of
the services required for offering overnight stays, such as meeting guests, changing
bedding and cleaning the apartments.
The sharing economy has recently ventured into the financial sector in Iceland as a
company, Aktiva, now offers peer-to-peer lending, where individuals can offer their
funds for borrowing while others can borrow funds. This is a novelty, while crowdfund-
ing is widely used in Iceland. One of these sites is Karolina Fund. According to their
website ( they have since September 2012 funded 245 pro-
jects, with a success rate of 74% and 25.840 participants. The website has funded all
kinds of startup firms and projects, including book publishing and music making.
There is one project that deserves a special mention. That is the initiative Hæg
breytileg átt or Slowly Changing Course ( It was a housing
development project conducted by Aurora Design Fund in collaboration with the City
Council of Reykjavik, Federation of Icelandic Industries, Iceland Design Centre, four
major Icelandic Housing Associations and the Iceland Academy of the Arts, bringing
together individuals from various disciplines. The aim of the project was “to define
innovative housing options for future development of high-density living areas in the
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far north with the intention to present ideas that bring about environmentally friend-
ly, socially aware, economic and progressive solutions to the classical challenges of
urban development”. The project aimed at rethinking housing in terms of reusing exi-
sting structures, while also considering the needs of the modern family where housing
needs are often variable.
3. Macroimpact and impact of the sharing economy on pay, working
conditions, and employment relations
On a macro level, the impact of the sharing economy in Iceland has been quite sub-
stantial. With the surge in tourism in Iceland in recent years, sharing economy sites
such as Airbnb have been able to accommodate the increase in demand for overnight
stays that traditional hotels would not have been able to provide. In the absence of
Airbnb or similar services the pressure on the factors of production would have been
much greater, with price increases leading to higher inflation and a risk of collapse in
the tourism sector. With the sharing economy the traditional economy is not as de-
pendent on factors of production, or rather the factors of production have been come
more variable when it comes to measures of capital stock. A part of the capital stock
that previously was considered non-producing can now easily be converted into pro-
ducing capital stock. During the economic cycle, this share can easily increase or cont-
ract depending on demand conditions, thus reducing the pressure or slack in the eco-
nomy leaving inflation and wages less vulnerable to fluctuations.
So far the sharing economy in Iceland has worked as a buffer which kicked in when
demand increased to the extent it put pressure on supply. Under those circumstances,
the sharing economy can meet the demand while supply catches up or until the de-
mand reduces again. This, however, is a short-term view while it is harder to envision
what happens in the long run.
The sharing economy is here to stay, adding to the flora of the market by offering gre-
ater choice in various services. Although the effects on the labor market in Iceland are
very small so far, the sharing economy will become a fixture of our economy and thus
will impact working conditions and employment relations in the future.
In the sense that the sharing economy makes better use of resources, it could have the
effects of reducing demand for goods and thus reducing the number of production
jobs. However, the sharing economy has improved the situation of those that are self-
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employed in terms of their working conditions and ease of finding work. While there
are no signs of an increase so far, this could expand the pool of self-employed indivi-
duals in the future. Whether those will be new jobs or whether it is work previously
done by wage earners is hard to determine.
There will certainly be individuals who value the flexibility that participating in the
sharing economy has to offer, being able to work when they choose and for as long as
they choose. As of now, individuals have the choice of participating in the sharing
economy, by for instance driving for Uber in their spare time. Studies have shown that
self-employed individuals place value on autonomy, independence and control over
work (Valenduc and Vendramin 2016). Furthermore, the sharing economy could open
job opportunities for groups on the margin, disabled individuals, physically or mental-
ly, those with mobility issues, or residing in developing countries (ibid.).
From a business perspective the flexibility offered by the sharing economy can be at-
tractive and organizations might start to move the risk of fluctuations in their opera-
tions on to their employees. Organizations may decide to adapt their operations and
instead of hiring employees on a full-time basis, they will invite their employees to
become microentrepreneurs and work only when the organization requires.
To what extent will the traditional relationship between employer and employee be
changed through the sharing economy? None of the challenges of the sharing eco-
nomy are new, however, the share of self-employed is likely to increase and some of
the self-employed perhaps do not have a choice of being fully employed. Jobs in the
sharing economy may lack many of the benefits and protection afforded by traditional
jobs (such as retirement benefits, workers compensation coverage and eligibility for
unemployment insurance benefits). It is also possible that firms may circumvent em-
ployment regulation by operating informally in traditionally regulated markets (Aloisi
2016). The dilemma facing unions as the sharing economy develops is whether and
how to redefine their operations to accommodate those participating in the sharing
economy. The challenge lies in that the line between an employee and a microentre-
preneur has faded and will perhaps disappear.
The gender aspect of the sharing economy can not be ignored. The development of
the sharing economy takes place in the technology sector and women are historically
underrepresented in that sector. Hence, they might have little say in the development
of new programs and applications. This could lead to further widening of gender diffe-
rentials in the labor market in the future.
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Many questions remain unanswered. What will be the consequences for work-life ba-
lance? Where does a new balance between employment and self-employment lie? It
will depend on what individuals value in the work. Is it the company of colleagues? Is it
the work itself, or the pay?
4. Government and social partners’ approach to the sharing
The sharing economy requires policymakers to rethink rules and legislation as the sha-
ring economy tends to blur many of the lines that previously were quite bold. For in-
stance, the line between hotels and guesthouses on the one hand and private homes,
on the other, has been quite clear until now. With Airbnb and similar websites this line
has become blurred. The line that previously could be drawn between car rentals and
private cars has also become blurred as individuals have started to offer rides or rent
out their private automobiles. This ‘blurring of lines’ requires a new way of thinking.
There is no reason to resist the development of the sharing economy as it can benefit
all, but at the same time policymakers need to ensure fair treatment, as well as safety
of all producers and consumers.
With the large market share of Airbnb, the Icelandic government has instituted a new
act on overnight stay in homes (Act No. 67/2016). The act attempts at making a
distinction between individuals renting out rooms or apartments for a few days a year,
and those that rent out for longer periods of time. Those in the latter group are consi-
dered as running a business as opposed to occasional renting. The line was drawn at
90 days per year.
Furthermore, the act on rental cars was revised in 2015 (Act No. 65/2015) and it now
includes provisions on private rental of automobiles to account for the increase in in-
dividuals that want to rent out their automobiles, while making sure the automobiles
have proper insurance.
While the legal system often lags behind the actual development, the public sector
has made efforts to keep up with the times by sponsoring and participating in confer-
ences and projects to promote understanding of the sharing economy. The city of
Reykjavík was a co-sponsor of a conference on the sharing economy held in 2015 and
a co-sponsor of the Slowly Changing Course project. The Ministry of Welfare was also
one of the sponsor of the Slowly Changing Course project.
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The only Icelandic political party that has a resolution on the sharing economy is the
Left-Green party. In their resolution, they recognize the growth of the sharing econo-
my. They emphasize that it is important that individuals can use the opportunities of
the sharing economy as they see fit. Large scale merging of ownership of platforms
and third-party charging of services should be avoided. Improving the ability of indivi-
duals to make use of the platforms should be supported with the accompanying orga-
nic growth and diversity. Thus, according to the resolution, the sharing economy can
improve productivity and use of factors of production, be an environmentally sound
way towards equality and improved use of natural resources (Vinstri-græn 2015).
The Icelandic Pirate Party has published a resolution on Iceland as an ‘internet friendly
country’, which implies that the internet is one of the basic factors of economic
growth which should be used systematically to increase investment, strengthen orga-
nizations and create jobs. Iceland as an ‘internet friendly country’ should attract the
business of organizations worldwide.
As regards the social partners, discussions have taken place on the sharing economy,
while neither unions nor employer associations have formed a policy on the sharing
economy. When asked, representatives of union federations and individual unions
reply that indeed they feel that there is need to discuss the effects of the sharing eco-
nomy. They also follow the development abroad through international organizations
to which they belong.
As an example of the international discussion, the European Federation of Food, Agri-
culture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) has put forth their position on the sharing
sconomy in the tourism sector (EFFAT, n.d.). A discussion which is quite relevant to
Iceland with the growth of the tourism sector in recent years.
EFFAT warns that the sharing economy can easily turn into a shadow economy. They
also note that if non-hotel short-term stay providers are operating at a bigger scale
(e.g. a growing number of Airbnb hosts have multiple properties to let), surely jobs will
be generated (e.g. cleaning, caretaking, administration), but jobs in conventional lod-
ging establishments might get lost. EFFAT points out that extensive purchase of ur-
ban housing for the sole purpose to rent via online platforms leads to an increase of
housing prices in many cities, and makes centrally-located housing increasingly unaf-
fordable for individuals with low and middle income.
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EFFAT underlines that the objective is not to stop the sharing economy, as it cor-
responds to consumers’ demands, but transparency, legality and social justice should
be sought for, to avoid that the sharing economy causes unfair competition and social
dumping. They also note that it is important to regulate that duties are paid directly to
the relevant national or regional authorities via the platform operators. It should also
be ensured that in case the sharing economy service providers create jobs, they shall
be bound by the same obligations with regard to their workers as regular hospitality
businesses (EFFAT, n.d.)
A big part of the media coverage on the sharing economy in Iceland has focused on
individual websites, such as Airbnb, often with the focus on its influence on house pri-
ces in Reykjavik.
5. Summary
So far, the sharing economy in Iceland seems to have had little effect on the Icelandic
labor market. However, most people would agree that the effect will only grow with
time. But although there is extensive discussion in international fora on the effects of
the sharing economy, the local discussion has not yet taken place.
The development of the sharing economy in Iceland is somewhat different than in the
other Nordic countries. The development is driven to a large extent by the sudden and
large increase in the growth of the tourism sector leading to an increase in demand for
overnight stays and rental cars. This has caused a boom in the growth of apartments
and rooms on offer on Airbnb and private automobiles offered for rent. In the other
Nordic countries the arrival of Uber has played a large part in the development of the
sharing economy. However, Uber does not operate in Iceland.
A main issue that needs to be adressed when discussing the sharing economy is the
lack of data on the size of the sharing economy. Efforts need to be stepped up world-
wide to develop ways in which to define and measure the extent of the sharing econ-
omy. However, due to the nature of the sharing economy, traditional ways of measur-
ing used by statistics offices worldwide do not adequately measure the true size of the
sharing economy. International cooperation is thus needed to develop new ways and
means for measurement.
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Furthermore, due to the international nature of the sharing economy, international
cooperation should be encouraged to develop the legal environment that will ensure
fair treatment of individuals working within the sharing economy.
So far, we have only seen a few of the opportunities that the sharing economy offers.
Only time will tell which ones we haven’t seen yet. In addition, we don’t know the
long-term effects the sharing economy will have. Today we observe the sharing eco-
nomy as an addition to the traditional economy, but how will the sharing economy
develop into the future?
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Act No. 67/ 2016. Lög um breytingu á lögum um veitingastaði, gististaði og skemmtanahald, nr.
85/2007 (heimagisting, veitingastaðir án áfengisveitinga, ótímabundin rekstrarleyfi).
Act No. 65/2015. Lög um leigu skráningarskyldra ökutækja.
Aloisi, A. (2016). Commoditized workers: Case study research on labor law issues arising from a
set of “on-demand/gig economy” platforms. Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, 37, 653-
Botsman, R. (2015). Defining The Sharing Economy: What Is Collaborative Consumption—And
What Isn't? Retrieved September 9, 2016 from
EFFAT, European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (n.d.). “Sharing
Economy” in Tourism: Position of the EFFAT Tourism Sector. Retrieved September 25, 2016
Iceland Tourist Board (n.d.) Heildarfjöldi erlendra ferðamanna 1949-2015. Retrieved September
9, 2016 from
Íslandsbanki (2016). Íslensk ferðaþjónusta. Retrieved September 5, 2016 from
Jónsson, Ö. D. & Sæmundsson, R. J. (2014). Deilihagkerfið: Fjárvæðing örfrumkvöðlanna.
Þjóðarspegillinn. Ráðstefna í félagsvísindum XV, (ed.) Ásgeir Jónsson, Reykjavik: Fé-
lagsvísindastofnun Háskóla Íslands.
Kristjánsdóttir, Á. (2015). Deilihagkerfi, tækifæri eða ógnanir? Samtök atvinnulífsins. Retrieved
September 5, 2016, from
Statistics Iceland. (n.d.).
Valenduc, G. & Vendramin, P. (2016). Work in the digital economy: Sorting the old from the new.
European Trade Union Institute Working Paper 2016.03. Retrieved September 1, 2016 from
Vinstri-græn. (2015). Landfundarályktun um deilihagkerfið.
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Kristin Jesnes & Jon Erik Dølvik, Fafo
1. Introduction
The term sharing economy became a buzzword in the Norwegian media at the end of
2015, and has since been object of debates and controversies. The Norwegian social
partners (LO, NHO Abelia, Virke), government authorities (Skatteetaten, Arbeidstil-
synet), academics and other actors have engaged in the debate about what the sha-
ring economy is, opportunities and challenges, and whether and how the sharing eco-
nomy should be regulated.
The aim of this paper is to briefly review the knowledge about the sharing economy in
Norway; what is it, how big is the phenomenon, different interpretations of the im-
plications for working conditions and how different social actors are approaching the
The structure of the paper is as follows: First, we discuss the term sharing economy,
and the size of the sharing economy in the Norwegian labor market. Second, we ex-
plore the possible implications of the sharing economy for working conditions, em-
ployment relations, and the wider functioning of the labor market (mobility, recruit-
ment, staffing strategies etc.). Third, we look closer at the Norwegian government’s
and the social partners’ approaches to the sharing economy.
2. Background
What is the sharing economy?
The Norwegian Productivity Commission notes that the sharing economy is “charac-
terized….by mobile based applications that makes it easier, cheaper and faster for
providers and customers to find each other. This is also referred to as intermediation
NCM Editing Tool 41
economy or platform economy, since it is the intermediation or platform, and not sha-
ring, which particularly distinguishes these services from other services”1 (NOU,
2016:3) Launching the term intermediation economy, Jesnes and Nesheim (2015) put
forth three elements that characterize the sharing economy: (1) an intermediary in the
form of a digital platform which helps (2) connect providers and consumers/clients
(crowdsourcers), (3) to perform transactions (services, sharing of assets/property,
skills or labor). Technology, increased trust, renting instead of owning, andlower
transaction costs are also elements that are emphasized in attempts to define the sha-
ring economy.
One important distinction is between sharing economy platforms involving some
form of labor, and those not involving labor, but rather trading or renting of assets
such as homes and cars. Andreassen (2016) divides the sharing economy platforms
into labor and capital platforms; where the former is a platform where labor is placed
at the disposal of others (examples: TaskRabbit, småjobber, Upwork), and the
latter is a platform where an underutilized asset (such as a car, boat or an apartment)
is put at the disposal of others (examples: Airbnb, Nabobil).
3. Size of the sharing economy
What do we know about the magnitude, dynamics, composition, and economics of
these emerging markets? What research and statistics is out there and what is lack-
ing? When approaching these questions, one can either look at the sharing economy
platforms (how many are there and how big are they), adopt a consumer perspective
(how many companies/individuals buy services through platforms), or a worker
perspective (how many provide work through these platforms). In this section, we will
briefly review information relating to the size of the sharing economy from all three
perspectives, but the main emphasis is on the worker perspective.
Consumer perspective
A study conducted by SIFO in 2015 relieved that 45 percent of Norwegians are familiar
with specific sharing economy platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, while 19 percent
1 Authors own translation
42 NCM Editing Tool
have participated as users in sharing economy initiatives (e.g. have shared a home or a
car). Only 6 percent consider themselves as active users (Slettemeås & Kjørstad,
Worker perspective
Preliminary studies of the sharing economy suggest that the platforms’ business
model is based on recruiting self-employed (Sundararajan 2016: 159). Nergaard (2016)
has explored Norwegian Labor Force Survey (LFS) data on the different types of non-
standard forms of work and find that the rate of atypical work in Norway remains sta-
ble around 20 percent across the LFS-surveys years from 2000 to 2014 (see figure 1).
The workers in the sharing economy companies will most likely be categorized as non-
standard forms of employment, such as temporary workers, permanent employees
with few working hours or, most likely, as self-employed without employees.
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Figure 1: Forms of employment in Norway (Nergaard 2016/LFS). 2015.
Yet, the LFS data are not well suited to identify new and different types of atypical
employment relationships. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the phenomenon
concerns few workers in Norway, and the likelihood is low that these workers will ap-
pear in the LFS. Secondly, studies suggest that many of the workers engaged in the
sharing economy do this as a secondary and not a primary job, and the work might be
irregular and task based (Huws and Joyce 2016a, 2016b). Grünfeld et al. (2016) argue
that an increasing share of the workforce combines a permanent job with being self-
employed. Many of the self-employed do not have their primary revenue from being
self-employed, and this implies that many are self-employed on the side of their pri-
mary job. This is often the case for self-employed in general. Thirdly, some of the
workers might not be registered as either of the categories mentioned above.
Fafo and Center for Applied Research at NHH (SNF), commissioned by the Labour and
Social Ministry, conducted a survey in the fall of 2016 aiming at measuring the number
of workers in the sharing economy in Norway. The survey included 1525 adults aged
18 and above, and about 10 percent answered that they sometimes work for online
platforms. 2 percent of the respondents performed platform work on a weekly basis, 1
percent on a monthly basis, and 6 percent at least once during the last year. Having
79 78 78 78 77 78 77 78 79 79 79 79 79 79 79
10 10 10 910 10 910 9910 10 999
Self-employed without own employees
Temporary employment
Permanently employed with few hours
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interviewed platform companies giving much lower estimates of gig-workers con-
nected to their platforms, the researchers warn against taking these figures too literal-
ly (Jesnes et al. 2016a). The survey will be reproduced by Fafo in 2017.
In addition, the companies themselves have published some numbers. små-
jobber has, according to their websites, around 25 000 ”helpers” of which some 3000
appear to have pursued at least one job. Uber Norway has less than 500 drivers in Oslo
and 13 000 active riders, according to the company (data from January 2016). In 2015,
Upwork Norway had 94 000 registered user companies and 9500 posted tasks. On the
worker side, Upwork Norway had 7900 registered freelancers and 100 freelancers in
Norway earning money through Upwork every month (Olsen, 2015). That is, only 1,3
percent of the registered Upwork freelancers in Norway get an assignment every
month. Welance has 2500 freelancers and about 100 Crowdsourcers (60 big customer
companies) (Jesnes et al. forthcoming). Konsus has about 200 freelancers, and 500
companies have used the service (Forbes 2016). These numbers, from some of the
biggest and most known sharing economy platforms in Norway, indicate that the to-
tal amount of workers in the sharing economy might be less than what the numbers
from the Fafo-survey indicate.
Company perspective - sharing economy initiatives in Norway
Are there many established platform companies, or are there mostly a lot of start-
ups? In which sectors, occupations, and skill categories can such companies primarily
be found today, and in which areas are they expected to flourish? A mapping of shar-
ing economy platforms in Norway is currently being conducted by Fafo and Center for
Applied Research at NHH (SNF), in collaboration with SIFO (National Institute for
Consumer Research). So far, the mapping suggests that there are currently about 30
platforms involving labour in Norway (Jesnes et al. 2016a). Some of the platform
companies are members of the employment organization NHO Abelia. Among these
we find: Uber, Weclean, Nabobil, Lotel, Gelatogroup, Yelpy, Doogy, Ework,
In addition, some are members of Virke.
As the sharing economy is still evolving and platforms are established and disappear
rather frequently, it is difficult to be specific on the amount of sharing economy plat-
forms at present. Jesnes et al. (2016a) also emphasize that some of the companies
discussed under the heading of the sharing economy are start-up companies trying to
find their desired business model. Some of these have already changed from hiring
freelancers to hiring employees on open-ended contracts with few working hours.
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4. Implications for working conditions and employment relations
Employment relations
Employment protection legislation in Norway – as well as collective agreement regu-
lations – tend to take as a starting point the distinction between dependent employe-
es and self-employed, and in the former group between fixed term and permanent
contracts. The rights of the workers depend on the employment relationship, and the
rights of an employee are considerably better than the rights of a self-employed. So-
me argue that those who provide work in the sharing economy are incorrectly classi-
fied as self-employed and that these workers might end up without the freedom of
the self-employed and without the income security and job protection of an employ-
ee. Hotvedt (2016) has analyzed Uber Norway’s contract, and on the basis of the cont-
ract, she discusses whether Uber has a responsibility as an employer or not. When
evaluating the employment relationships, it is important to ask: Who are responsible
for the product? What are the working tools and who do they belong to? Who are re-
sponsible for training, health and security? Hotvedt concludes that the contract impli-
es that the form of employment relationship used by Uber Norway is in the gray area
between an employee and a self-employed; there are elements pointing in both direc-
tions, of that of an employer-employee relationship and of that of a self-employed. If
this spreads, it might lead to a blurring of standard employment relations.
According to Jesnes et al. (2016b), sharing economy companies that cater and inter-
mediate labor to businesses do not necessarily have similar relations with the free-
lancers/self-employed that perform the work and this vary from platform to platform.
Looking at the three labor suppliers – Konsus, Upwork and Welance – they all link
freelancers with business users wanting a specific task to be accomplished, but some
of them operate a stable, limited pool of agents and customers, while others service a
wide range of actors on both sides. One of the companies, Konsus organizes pay, con-
tracts and the company maintains enduring relationships with the freelancers and
wants them to earn a high share of their income through their company in order to
promote quality, skill formation, and work incentives. Another company, Upwork,
operates in a slightly different manner (than Konsus) as it links a large number of ac-
tors on both sides world-wide, and it appears that the company itself serves a purely
technical matching function with no responsibilities for pay and contracts. A third
company, Welance falls somewhat in between the two previous cases as it provides
freelancers with specialized skills and therefore engages in more tailored matching
including contractual issues to ensure that the freelancers fulfil the specific skill re-
46 NCM Editing Tool
quirements of the user firm. These variations imply that it will be challenging for the
authorities to evaluate whether a person is employed or self-employed, and it requires
jurisprudence. Currently, no cases have been taken to court on this issue in Norway.
What is certain is that the platform companies seem to combine employment relati-
onships in other triangular ways than what the regular systems have addressed so far.
The distribution of risk and vulnerability in such triangular relationships are transfer-
red onto the producers who ultimately are at the mercy of the unpredictable matching
market when it comes to whether there is work and income to be found, and who is
carrying the costs if not (Aloisi, 2016).
Working conditions and health, security and environmental issues
The working conditions of the producers in such contexts are as far as we are aware of
not studied in Nordic contexts. However, the Norwegian think tank Agenda, together
with Moods Qualitative Research, has in a report, commissioned by Samfunnsviterne,
studied the situation of freelancers in general, which might be a useful point of depar-
ture in this context. In their qualitative study, they have interviewed 28 freelancers,
and the results indicate that the freelancers value the freedom they have, however,
this freedom is constrained by poor payment, extra work on administrative issues and
worries about whether they will have a job tomorrow or not (Agenda 2016:12).
Eurofound (2015) usually underlines that the working conditions accompanied with
the new forms of work are poor. Two issues stand out internationally: low pay and
insecurity of payment and scant opportunities of voice. First, the earnings of crowd
workers are very low, for instance the hourly rate on Amazon Mechanical Turk is less
than 2 dollars (p. 115). The companies included in this study appears to pay the free-
lancers more than Amazon Mechanical Turk, one of them referring that they pay be-
tween 10 and 20 dollars an hour, which is definitely not much for skilled work in a
Norwegian context. A related issue is insecurity with regards to payment; the crowd-
sourcer might hold back pay until satisfied with the result (Prassl & Risak 2016:8). In
addition, the rating system in place in many companies, where the crowdsourcer and
the freelancer rate each other after the job is performed, also raises some issues (Ibid:
8). The most attractive jobs are assigned to those with the best reputation, which
leads to fierce a competition on prize and quality between freelancers that do not ha-
ve information about what the others are offering. Second, as the most vulnerable
contracting part, the producers have scant opportunities for voice regarding the con-
tent of the assignments, the quality required, or the terms offered for delivering it, not
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to speak of the protections and rights associated with ordinary employment. Normal-
ly, there is no reliable dispute resolution system that can be invoked if the producer
and the client disagree about the conduct of the task (Eurofound 2015: 115). The com-
panies in Jesnes et al. (2016b) were not aware of the workers organizing through trade
unions among those who provided work. In addition, crowdsourcers outsourcing tasks
to freelancers abroad through intermediaries have little knowledge of the actual em-
ployment conditions of the producer. Hence, the preliminary studies clearly indicate
that there are reasons for concerns with regard to payment, insecurity and scant op-
portunities of voice, so the working conditions of producers within companies in the
sharing economy definitely need further scrutiny.
Implications for the broader labor market
Besides the direct impact of the platform economy on the employment conditions of
the workers involved, one can envisage that a proliferation of platform work will have
implications for the functioning of the broader labor market in affected industries and
occupations. With the presently limited size of the phenomenon, no empirical studies
of such effects are undertaken in Norway. Yet, if the platform economy “takes off”
there are certainly questions arising as to how the new commercial forms of matching
in the job market – simplifying outsourcing of tasks – influence employers’ willingness
to hire equivalent labor on regular contracts in-house, their organization of work, and
the terms offered. If internal work organization becomes more directly shaped by the
dynamics and conditions of the platform markets, one can envisage strengthened
pressures towards externalization of work, cutting of labor costs, and splitting of jobs
into parcels of standardized tasks, or mini-jobs, suited for universal subcontracting. A
consequence in such a scenario is that the labor market becomes more fragment-
ed/segmented while those working in the customer companies become subject to
stricter hierarchical control, supervision, and benchmarking of tasks with correspond-
ing diminution of the scope for teamwork, learning by doing, and investment in long
term skill formation possibly spreading to other firms competing with those relying
on short-term labor via digital platforms. In effect, product market competition be-
tween companies can be transformed towards more direct forms of competition on
costs and quality between workers transcending the division between internal and
external labor markets. Beyond the questions pertaining to the effects on job compe-
tition and matching of skills in the affected industries, a looming, overarching ques-
tion is to what extent the new platform companies actually will contribute to creation
of more jobs, employment, and production –-or whether they will mainly contribute
to a reshuffling of jobs, tasks and revenues/income between the involved parties. In
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order to promote the former kind of effects and mitigate the obvious risk for the lat-
ter, there will certainly arise needs for renewed taxation rules and development of
new modes of regulation of the terms for competition, remuneration, contract forms,
employment conditions, dispute resolution, insurance, and, possibly, negotiating
rights and other aspects of the platform economy.
5. Government and social partners’ approaches to the sharing
How are government authorities approaching the regulatory dilemmas arising from
these new business concepts? What role has the courts played in government strate-
gies? In this section, we will first look at the government’s approach to the sharing
economy, regulatory regimes and the courts. Thereafter, we will look at the approach
of the main trade union confederation, LO, and the employer organization NHO
Abelia. Taxes and the issue of employment relationship seem to be the two issues that
stand out as the core of the discussions in the case of Norway.
Government responses
A government appointed Committee for the sharing economy was established in
March 2016 by the Ministry of Finance (Government of Norway, 2016). The social
partners are represented in the Committee. The mandate of the committee is to2:
Evaluate whether regulations should be adjusted to achieve a more level playing
field between sharing economy companies and traditional activities, and to
evaluate whether there are any regulations that some actors should be exempted
Assess the potential impact of the sharing economy on the labor market,
including self-employed and employees. The committee will consider the
consequences of the increasing prevalence of self-employed, and the need for
changes in the regulations for this group.
Examine the regulations in individual markets where sharing economy actors are
prevalent, and consider whether it is necessary to change the regulations as a
result of new technologies or new business models.
2 Authours own translation
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Assess the need to change regulations across markets, including consumer rights
and performance standards.
The Committee has a deadline of 1st of February 2017 to submit its recommendations.
The government is working in parallel with necessary regulatory changes and reforms.
The Committee’s work should not constitute an obstacle to this work, according to
the government.
In the meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport and Communication is considering several
changes in the taxi regulations. Two hearings papers were published in December in
relation to the sharing economy and technology development. One of the hearings is
a proposal to amend the Professional Transport Act, amongst others by making an
exception from license obligation for carpooling/ridesharing (”samkjøring”), raising
the upper age limit for having a taxi license and repealing the requirement for connec-
tion to a taxi dispatcher.3 The other hearing is a proposal to allow for testing of self-
driving vehicles on roads, which is more about technology advancements than about
the sharing economy.4 The Ministry is also looking at the possibility of using new
technology to calculate prices (alternatives to taxi meters) and ways of ensuring that
consumers are guaranteed better information on the prices of the service. Oslo Taxi
has already started to develop new technology together with DNB (a major state-
owned Norwegian bank) to compete with Uber and other sharing economy platforms.
In December 2016 the Norway taxi federation reported 105 Uber drivers to the police
(NRK 30.11.2016).
The director of the Norwegian Tax Administration (Skatteetaten), Holte, has stated
that there is no reason to believe that the sharing economy will lead to tax evasion.
The Tax Administration issued information on the sharing economy in the spring of
2016 whereby the phenomenon is defined as a business model where individuals sell
services or rent out assets through an intermediary company. The Tax Administration
raises questions about the boundary between hobby and business. To determine
whether the activity is a hobby or business, the specific case must be evaluated. Ac-
cording to the Tax Administration, the following aspects are important to take into
3 ing---endring-av-yrkestransportlova---unnatak-fra-loyveplikt-for-
4 ing---forslag-til-ny-lov-om-utproving-av-selvkjorende-kjoretoy-pa-
50 NCM Editing Tool
account: is the activity operated at own expense and risk, what scale is it, is it likely to
make a profit over time, does it aim for certain duration? In addition, the Tax Admini-
stration has issued fact sheets/guidelines with limits on when you have to start paying
taxes in various cases:
Sharing a car (limit 10 000 NOK)
Carpooling, rental of a car or similar assets (taxable beyond 10 000 NOK),
Rental of apartments, rooms etc. (taxable beyond 20 000 NOK),
Small assignments (småjobber) (revenue from paid labor is taxable) ,
Other services and favors (taxable),
VAT, in relation to the sale of goods or services, is compulsory.
This implies amongst others that people who rent out their home through AirBnb
have to pay taxes when they earn more than 20 000 NOK a year through the platform.
The Labor Inspectorate (Arbeidstilsynet) has issued a fact sheet on when you should
consider yourself an employer if you engage someone to perform a small assignment
(ex. Garden work). The Labor Inspectorate has also conducted several inspections of
sharing economy platforms, and notified some of them for not complying with rules
regarding employment contracts, health and safety, etc. (Dagens Næringsliv,
The legality of Uber’s operations is contested, also in Norway. Two questions have
been raised: Are the Uber-drivers self-employed or employees? Is Uber a technology
or a transportation company? The first question has implications for the rights of the
drivers and the duties of the company vis-à-vis the drivers. However, there have not
yet been any court cases on this issue. The second question has implications for which
requirements and sector-specific regulations Uber has to follow, and this is the most
crucial for continuation of Uber’s operation in the capital Oslo. Uber Norway started
its activity late 2014, and offers several services (UberPOP, UberBlack, UberEL).
Among these, UberPOP, where individuals use their own cars and drive unlicensed, is
the most controversial. The legality of UberPop’s operations in Oslo is still under scru-
tiny. More than 70 Uber drivers have been stopped by the police and suspected of ille-
gal taxi operation, and the police has also taken legal proceedings against two drivers
who had acted as Uber chauffeurs on a regular basis. Recently they were found guilty
of breaching transport legislation by being involved in professional transport services
without the required licence. The police has started to temporarily withdraw driving
licenses from Uber drivers (Aftenposten 20.10.2016). In a recent court case a number
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of drivers lost their driving licences and had to pay fines and cede their earnings from
Uber driving (Aftenposten 16.12 2016).
The social partners’ responses
How are the social partners approaching the regulatory dilemmas? Have they gone to
court (to protect their interests), do they call for legislative adjustments or do they
rather prefer to resolve the issues through collective bargaining and organization? In
Norway, several of the social partners (e.g. LO, NHO Abelia, Virke) and others have
engaged in a debate on how to define and react to the sharing economy since the fall
of 2015.
LO about the sharing economy
The sharing economy is an issue of concern among trade union’s shop stewards. A
survey conducted by Fafo among the shop stewards in LO (the main trade union con-
federation) shows that one out of three shop stewards believe that the sharing eco-
nomy will undermine labor rights (Ødegård, 2016). In a newspaper article in Dagens
Næringsliv the 11.11.2015, the President of LO, Gerd Kristiansen, said that she fears
the sharing economy will lead to a society of casual work.
In the spring of 2016, LO established a working group on these issues and the working
group published a paper on the collaborative economy (“samhandlingsøkonomien”) in
June 2016. In the document, LO stresses that the organization is positive to technolo-
gical developments, but points to some elements LO considers to be important when
considering what regulations should apply for the sharing economy. Firstly, LO uses
the term collaborative economy, in lack of a more appropriate term, and points to the
fact that the phenomenon is not about sharing, but about transactions. Secondly,
technology neutral rules are important for the trade union confederation, in order to
ensure that the companies in the sharing economy pay taxes and compete on the sa-
me level playing field as other companies. The issue of employment relationship is of
course the most important for LO, and they underline that the laws should be clear on
when you are an employee and when you are a self-employed. In the document on the
collaborative economy, LO Norway has suggested amendments in current labour law
aimed to provide an unambiguous definition of what it means to be an employee (LO
2016a). In the document, the trade union confederation has also suggested other me-
asures to make sure that the rights of the employees are safeguarded. It is likely that
some of these measures will be raised as suggestions in the sharing economy commit-
52 NCM Editing Tool
tee. LO has also established a group “LO selvstendige” that will address the issue of
freelancers and whether and how LO should approach the freelancers.
NHO about the sharing economy
NHO, the main employer confederation held its annual conference in 2016 on the
topic of the new working life, where the technological developments and the sharing
economy was a central part of the conference. NHO is positive to the sharing econo-
my, but the President Kristin Skogen Lund also underlines that the most people in
Norway are permanently employed and that is what most companies want. This form
of employment is considered as an investment in the competence of the workers (in
Agenda 2016:29).
NHO Abelia organizes tech companies, and organizes most of the sharing economy
platforms today. Some of the platform companies asked NHO Abelia for help on a
range of issues, including taxes, in the fall of 2015. As a follow-up, NHO Abelia orga-
nized round tables with the CEOs of the companies, and the Ministry of Finance and
the director of the Norwegian Tax Administration also attended the roundtables.
NHO Abelia’s approach to the sharing economy is to first embrace the opportunities
that the sharing economy gives, and then tackle the challenges. The main issue of
concern is related to taxes and how to make transaction-based solutions. NHO Abelia
seems not to be concerned with the employer-employee issue, and they do not think
the spread of the sharing economy will lead to a considerable increase in the share of
self-employed. Yet, the organization stresses that better safety nets for self-
employed are needed.
6. Summary and final remarks
The sharing economy was first put on the agenda in Norway in the fall of 2015. Various
ministries and public authorities have since then been quick in addressing problematic
related to the sharing economy. The social partners have also been active in addres-
sing the issue from various angles. The main issue of common concern related to the
sharing economy in Norway is taxation. Especially the trade unions are also concerned
with the blurring of the employer-employee relationship, and have argued for legal
clarification of the boundaries between employees and self-employed/freelancers.
The need for adjustment in regulation of the preconditions for access to different
branches is a third issue, where most actors apparently see a common interest in de-
NCM Editing Tool 53
veloping “technology neutral rules”. In this vein, some changes seem on their way, for
instance in the transport sector, in order to allow for actors applying new digital tech-
When it comes to employment issues, at the moment, this phenomenon only includes
a tiny part of the Norwegian labor market. But if it gains momentum, it might have
significant implications for employment relations, working conditions, and the functi-
oning of the labor market in parts of the Norwegian economy. The Norwegian wor-
king life is often regarded as highly organized, but the rates of organization in most
private services where the platform economy is supposed to expand are relatively low
and most self-employed tend (with a few exceptions) to be unorganized. The social
partners have thus far also shown limited capacity to regulate earlier forms of triangu-
lar employment relationships – such as temporary agency work – through collective
bargaining. If an increasing share of the working population becomes self-employed
and subject to market-driven triangular service relationships, it will pose challenges to
the Norwegian model that are likely to call for novel forms of organization and joint
At present, the employer associations seem eager to attract the emerging platform
companies as members – offering legal, political, and organizational support – while
major trade union organizations are preparing initiatives to organize freelancers and
provide services that can be of help in their striving to obtain proper contracts, remu-
neration, employment conditions, social security, and so on. In some of these issues,
employer and labour organizations as well as politicians may see joint interests in
searching for political solutions, while in other issues for instance pertaining to pay
and employment security – complex conflicts of interests are likely to occur both
across and within the traditional dividing lines (e.g. between employer associations of
companies competing with or buying work-based services mediated by platform and
those organizing the platform companies.) Whether the social partners will prove
more apt to negotiate agreements suitable to govern such complex relationships than
they have been when it comes to leasing of labour through temp agencies, remains to
be seen. Sure, however, is that the sharing economy will test the collective actors’ ca-
pacity for organizational adaptation and renewal of their tool-kits.
Looking ahead, contrasting scenarios can be envisaged. It is not hard to foresee that
the market-driven, individualized organization of work characterising the platform
economy can reinforce existing tendencies of fragmentation in the Norwegian model,
and in the longer run, if it gains momentum, can usher in broader, disruptive change.
54 NCM Editing Tool
On the other hand, given the historical adjustment capacity of the Nordic countries
models and their legacy of negotiated self-regulation, one can easily imagine a path of
slow, evolutionary change where platform work is pragmatically incorporated in the
associational, regulatory machinery of the Nordic models. So, whether the Nordic
model, with its high levels of collective organization and regulation, is particularly vul-
nerable to the sharing economy or is especially well equipped to bring the new con-
cepts of business and work into its institutional folds, is a matter for further discussion
and elaboration.
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Aftenposten (20.10.2016). Uber-sjåfører i Oslo risikerer både førerkortet og bruksforbud for bi-
len. Uber-sjaforer-i-Oslo-risikerer-bade-forerkortet-og-bruksforbud-for-bilen-607178b
Aftenposten (16.12.2016). Taxisjåfør fratatt førerkortet etter 1100 Uber-oppdrag. Politiet har
slått til mot minst 70 Uber-sjåfører.
Agenda (2016). Frilansere, Frihet og Frykt. Perspektivnotat, 2016.
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set of “on-demand/gig economy” platforms. Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, 37, 653-
Andreassen, T. W. (2016). Delingsøkonomien - et gode eller et onde? Speech given at NHO
Abelia conference about the sharing economy, 3 March 2016.
Dagens Næringsliv (11.11.2015). Vi frykter et løsarbeidersamfunn.
Dagens Næringsliv (09.06.2016). Arbeidstilsynet slo til mot Foodora. 09.06.2016.
Eurofound (2015). New forms of employment. Authors: Mandl, Irene; Curtarelli, Maurizio; Riso,
Sara; Vargas, Oscar; Gerogiannis, Elias. Report: EF1461, 2015.
Government of Norway (2016). Delingsøkonomiutvalget.
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publikasjon 14/2016.
Hotvedt, M. J. (2016). Arbeidsgiveransvar i formidlingsøkonomien? Tilfellet Uber. Lov og rett,
Huws, U., & Joyce, S. (2016a). Size of Sweden’s ‘Gig Economy’ revealed for the first time.
Huws, U., & Joyce, S. (2016b). Size of the UK’s ’Gig Economy’ revealed for the first time.
Jesnes, K., & Nesheim, T. (2015). Formidlingsøkonomi, ikke delingsøkonomi. Aftenposten,
Jesnes, K., Nesheim, T., & Dølvik J. E. (2016b). New ways of organizing work – the sharing eco-
nomy and its impact on the Norwegian labour market. Paper presented at the ILERA-
conference, Milano, 8-10. Sept. 2016.
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Delrapport. Fafo-notat 2016:23.
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Bertil Rolandsson, Jesper Petersson, and Tomas Berglund
Department for Sociology and Work Science
University of Gothenburg
1. Introduction
The Swedish discussion about the sharing economy and its impact on work life draw
on a specific way of understanding new digital technology (SOU, 2015:91). New digital
tools are said to facilitate extensive brokerage or mediation of relations, as well as
providing extensive access to different resources or sources of data. In many cases,
this development is also associated with a rather conventional market-liberal ap-
proach, in which the threshold for setting up business is lowered and individual entre-
preneurs are enabled to set up new innovative business by using this digital technolo-
gy (Unionen/Söderqvist, 2016).
A nexus of partly tense practices and functions can also be tied to the Swedish debate.
In particular, the debate depicts complex combinations of business driven entrepre-
neurial practices, and different voluntary sharing practices within communities or
networks often resembling an older discussion about businesses drawing on open-
ness, open source software or knowledge sharing (Rolandsson et al., 2011; Un-
ionen/Söderqvist, 2016). This complex nexus of contradictory practices is sometimes
also labeled by using other partly overlapping concepts such as e.g. gig-economy, Us-
er [nyttjande]-economy, platform-economy, collaborative economy. Many of these
latter concepts down-play the importance of sharing as an altruistic exchange of as-
sets, and stress the importance of improving efficiency in brokerage and business
transactions person-to-person, or how easy it is for individuals to start making busi-
ness out of their own belongings by the help of digital platforms (SOU, 2015:65; In-
sightlab, 2015). Nevertheless, in most cases we may still identify prevailing ideas
about positive loaded practices demanding a certain measure of “sharing” without
any costs (Codagnone et al., 2016; cf. Benkler, 2006).
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It can be stressed that the tendency to refer to complex and partly tense combinations
of different practices also may cause confusion in the discussions about what the “sha-
ring economy” really is. For instance, a Swedish commission initiated by the state,
recently delivering an investigation expected to sketch some possible futures due to
the increasingly pervasive digitalization, define the sharing economy in the following
way (authors’ translation:):
Rather than being about companies renting out their resources to consumers (company-to-
consumers), the sharing economy is about peer-to-peer interaction. It could be about opportunities
to pay a certain sum that allows you to borrow skates or any other types of outfit; it could be a
about co-driving or the opportunity to use other peoples’ houses. Thus, it includes both commercial
and non-commercial forms of sharing, about renting, exchanging, borrowing, to give and to get
(SOU, 2015:91).5
It is true that this definition, used by the Swedish commission, include components
that could be understood as both “sharing” and “economy”. However, the way it sta-
tes that the sharing economy is about paying for being allowed to borrow somebody
else’s skates may appear difficult to grasp. Is it really possible to claim that you are
borrowing the skates if you pay for them, or are you hiring the skates (i.e. conducting
a rather conventional market transaction)? It can also be mentioned that the Swedish
union Transport and Uber have been arguing along similar concerns, disagreeing
about whether the service in UberPop should be understood as an illegal service on
the black market or as co-driving among peers that are enabled to share costs and
thus should not be taxed.
In other words, the idea of a sharing economy is characterized by vague definitions,
which is something that has to be kept in mind while looking at studies, research and
statistics. It can also be pointed out that it in many cases is said to be more accurate to
describe the phenomenon in focus as a “platform economy” based on digital plat-
forms facilitating peer-to-peer relations that are of economic importance. These plat-
forms may have the shape of an ordinary company, but the transactions or relations
that they enable are established between individuals. As such, we may state that the-
Delningsekonomin handlar om interaktionen individer emellan (peer-to-peer), snarare än företag som hyr ut sina resurser
till konsumenter (företag-till-konsument). Det kan t.e x. handla om att man betalar för att låna skridskor eller annan utrust-
ning av någon, för att samåka eller för att använda andras bostäder. Detta innefattar såväl kommersiella former för delan-
de som icke-kommersiella, det vill säga hyra såväl so m byta, låna, ge och få. (SOU 2015:91)
NCM Editing Tool 59
se platforms are mainly associated with ideas about the individual entrepreneur, ca-
pable of finding new and alternative sources of income (SOU, 2015:91).
2. Size of the sharing economy
Difficulties in defining what we mean by the sharing economy, obviously makes it dif-
ficult to measure the magnitude of it. In addition, quantitative studies are rare. How-
ever, some statistics can be found trying to describe how common, whom, and to
what extent different groups/actors take part in the sharing economy emerging in
Sweden (Uni-Europa, 2016). For instance, University of Hertfordshire have during
2016 together with Ipsos, Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), and
unions like Uni-Europa and the Swedish union Unionen, conducted surveys in differ-
ent countries. In Sweden the survey included 2146 adults aged 16-65 and it found that
12% of the population is engaged in platforms such as Upwork, Skjutsgruppen, Uber,
AirBnB etc. that can be associated with the sharing economy. Confirming the idea
that the sharing economy is about private persons finding new ways to capitalize on
their own belongings during their spare time, the survey also comes to the conclusion
that this type of work is occasional. Only 4% of the population engages in this type of
work as often as once a month, and only 3% of the men and 2% of the women engage
on a weekly basis. An interesting conclusion also is that Swedish males are more likely
to engage in this type of “crowd work” than women (13% of the men and 10% of the
women). Given that the sharing economy often emerges as a way to capitalize on the
private sphere, traditionally perceived as female sphere, women could have been ex-
pected to reach a higher number (which also is the case in for instance Britain).
It can be pointed out that this survey frequently mixes concepts like “the gig-
economy” (implying that this new economy consists of entrepreneurial crowd-
workers shouldering short term projects or gigs), and “the sharing economy” (imply-
ing that peers are helping each other out). This makes the report appear a bit vague in
its definition - a vagueness further underscored by their interest in mapping to what
extent the examined population is selling private belongings on internet (something
that can be considered as rather different from offering work on the net). By looking
at the figures, however, it can be claimed that emphasis in the study is on so-called
crowd-workers that are offered or able to pick a gig every now and then. Thus, the
sharing economy is conceptualized as a phenomenon that draws on new digital
means enabling individuals to make use of their own belongings (preferably by the
help of a digital platform that is run by a company) to start their own business. It is
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conceptualized as an economy allowing anyone to conduct entrepreneurial projects
characterized by more or less low intensity, in which they offer other individuals dif-
ferent preferably customized services (Uni-Europa, 2016).
There are other studies drawing on a similar definition of the sharing economy as a
matter of person-to-person businesses, mediated by companies that take the shape
of being platform-owners or brokers. Insightlab (2015), representing a HR and em-
ployer-perspective, stress that the new digital technology will further nurture this de-
velopment, by referring to a study by The Swedish Agency for Economical and Regio-
nal Growth (Tillväxtverket) showing that the amount of companies in Sweden without
employees have increased from 310 000 during 1993 to 850 000 during 2014 (recent
figures from Statistics Sweden/SCB show that 2015 the number of companies without
employees have increased even further to 865 122). To begin with, it seems as if this
new digital economy enable an increasing amount of freelancers, engaged in more
creative and qualified tasks to set up their own projects. This stress on freelance-work
is further underscored by referring to statistics from one of the leading actors provi-
ding freelancers with assignments, showing their increased demand on e.g. projects
demanding free-lancers doing video-editing, programming, translations, copywriting
have increased immensely. Nevertheless, they also stress that individuals are starting
to earn money on micro-tasks that do not necessarily demand experience or educati-
on. This latter emphasis on unqualified micro-tasks is associated with for instance
young people who are about to enter the labor market, or old people who wants to
“cling on” to work life by doing different jobs every now and then. In addition, the idea
that these new digital platforms lower the barriers for anyone who wants to work and
earn an income is further confirmed in public inquiries presented by mentioned
Swedish commission (SOU, 2015; 91), and international reports pinpointing how indi-
viduals are starting to see micro-tasks as alternative sources of income, as a broader
global/western trend (OECD, 2016).
Mentioned public inquiries initiated by the Swedish state, also connect the sharing
economy with further aspects of digitalization, while referring to an increasingly po-
larized labor market, where competition about simple tasks and pressure on salaries
increases (Frey & Berger, 2015; SOU, 2015: 91). In particular “middle” and “low-
qualified” jobs are told to be increasingly squeezed by this development, and jobs that
demand creative and competent labor are said to become more attractive.
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3. Impacts of the sharing economy on working conditions, pay, and
employment relations
It should be underscored that the public/political debate about the sharing economy
has mainly addressed issues about taxation and consumer protection (Skatteverket,
2016). Work life issues have so far been less present. Public inquiries and existing poli-
cy documents often also stress that this is a phenomenon that should be understood
within a broader digital development, and that the Swedish workforce is well
equipped to manage the new emergent digital work-life. By having a highly educated
population, with generally good IT skills, and a high penetration of high speed internet
across the country, Sweden in general is said to be well prepared (SOU, 2015:65; SOU,
2015:91). Nevertheless, there is an emerging discussion about the need to create new
kinds of jobs, and to tackle the loss of jobs due to increased capacity to produce more
with fewer personnel, associated with the sharing economy (Ekman & Summer, 2015).
For instance, it has been argued that loss of jobs due to digital automation and roboti-
zation can be compensated by entrepreneurs and freelancers creating new jobs while
taking advantage of the opportunities caused by the emerging sharing economy (Uni-
onen/Söderqvist, 2016). Here it has also been highlighted how the entrance to a global
market through the internet will make it easier for employers all around the world to
access highly educated individuals and their expertise. This assumption draws on the
premises that experts and employers wanting to use their services now can find each
other frictionless on the internet. For instance, digital platform companies may provi-
de a “square” for the selling and buying of goods and services, creating the perfect
match between supply and demand (Fellman, 2015).
At the same time, the automatization and robotization is also said to affect the num-
ber of jobs for middle range employees with higher education. In this case, the sharing
economy have been presented as a possibility for this group to find new kinds of jobs
by for instance exploring ways of finding and developing niches of potential interest to
employers. But, the debate has also pointed to the possibility that this middle range
group might very well be forced into the segment of the sharing economy consisting
of low skilled, low payed, routine micro work tasks as associated with companies such
as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, TaskRabbit and TaskRunner (Insightlab, 2015; Unio-
nen/Söderqvist, 2016). In the latter case the traditional form of permanent employ-
ment in Sweden is subsided, not by the skilled entrepreneur, but by involuntarily self-
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Even if it is too early to tell in which direction the development is heading it has also
been pointed out that Sweden, compared to for instance the USA, have high initial
wages, and that this prevents employees from employing. In association with the
sharing economy the argument has been made that Sweden might benefit from ex-
panding the number of low skilled/low paid jobs. Sweden’s high reception of refugees
has then also been pointed out as a reason to expand its share of these types of jobs
(Fellman, 2015). The survey carried out by the University of Hertfordshire do also pro-
vide statistical data implying that people are increasingly associating themselves as
providers in the gig/sharing economy. Even if the income that Swedes earn through
this type of labor can be described as modest, many of those who partake more fre-
quently see themselves as dependable on it. According to the survey this challenges a
common understanding that this kind of work is only done for altruistic reasons, or is
seen as an occasional income. Furthermore, the report states that many of these indi-
viduals are stepping out of their normal occupational role, offering themselves to do a
variety of work, both from home (online) as well as offline, e.g. gardening work, clea-
ning etc. (Uni-Europa, 2016).
Another theme in the discussion on the sharing economy concerns the larger and am-
biguous social process of individualization (SOU, 2015:65; SOU, 2015:91). Stress is on
entrepreneurs in this process, which on one hand is associated with neo-liberal ideas
about the free market, and on the other hand concerns how individuals are increasing-
ly made responsible for constructing their own lives (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2002).
These entrepreneurs are both drawing advantage of the sharing economy as a self-
made, resource-rich person, making most of the opportunities offered by the possibi-
lity to compete on a global scale, and being struck by stressful demands on being able
to sell him/her self instead of being employed. In many cases these are also cir-
cumstances that are said to increase the need for the individual to develop social
skills, thinking in terms of networking and to see themselves as a personal brand (In-
sightlab, 2015). One of the frequently mentioned effects in line with these develop-
ments is the use of personal ratings in the sharing economy (Fellman, 2015; Insightlab,
2015). Clients and customers are increasingly in a positon where they use social media
to inform others about their dis/satisfaction by using various rating systems, including
systems that rate performance on the individual level.
Other aspects of this development put forward in the debate, are strongly associated
with the welfare system and its social insurances and social security entitlements. In
particular, there is a concern associated with the strong increase in the number of
people in Sweden earning an income as self-employed (egenanställd), paying specific
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companies for taking care of social security fees without being employed by them.
There is a fear that this group will become even more vulnerable in the sharing econ-
omy, and that insurances and entitlements in the labor area therefore have to be re-
vised (SOU, 2015:65; Unionen/Söderqvist, 2016). Studies do also indicate a quick raise
in the number of self-employed. For instance, the industrial organization
Egenanställningsföretagens Branschorganisation, representing this sector, has con-
ducted a study showing an increase between 2012 and 2014 in the number of self-
employed from 5402 to 11230 (www.egenanstä According to a recent
study by Novus the number of self-employed has increased even further, reaching
18000 during 2015. Studies and policy documents do often also state that today’s so-
cial security system is a product of the Swedish tradition of permanent employment,
and have to be adjusted to changes toward a sharing economy characterized by more
flexible modes of employment (cf. Braunerhjelm et al., 2014).
4. Government and social partners’ approaches to the sharing
The governmental approach to the emerging sharing economy in Sweden can be de-
scribed as dominated by a concern for how to regulate and tax these new digital plat-
forms and the business activities they make possible (Regeringskansliet, 2015; Skatte-
verket, 2016). At the moment, the governmental debate also tends to be rather ambi-
valent, framing the activities on these platforms as entrepreneurial business conditio-
ned by a certain amount of “altruistic” sharing. This might be due to the extensive fo-
cus that have been on the already mentioned case in which Uber have been struggling
in court with concerns about whether UberPop should be seen as an illegal service on
the black market or as co-driving that should not be taxed (SOU, 2015:91)
The sharing economy is however often approached in a rather liberal spirit, as a tech-
nological development that should not be hampered. It is even pointed out that this
type of economy may very well become important to the Swedish business climate,
infrastructure and ability to innovate and compete both on a regional and global scale.
Still, it is important to identify how different activities in the sharing economy can be
regulated and taxed so that sustainable conditions for the economy and for the con-
sumers may be maintained. We may also point out that the sharing economy is then
seen as a new ingredient in a wider digitalization, and that it is recurrently suggested
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that the Swedish government should await EU-initiatives concerning taxation and
consumer protection before any resolutions is put forward (Regeringskansliet, 2015).
Governmental initiatives have so far been less occupied by regulations on the labor
market. The commission that most recently presented the first public inquiries that
explicitly addresses the discussion about the sharing economy, even states that labor
law and social insurance issues is not their main topic (SOU, 2015:91). Nevertheless,
during October 2016 the government still initiated a new public inquiry, assigned to
start looking further into how legislation about work environment will be affected.
If we continue by looking at the Swedish employer associations, they often focus on
similar issues and approve on a more liberal approach. Instead of stressing regulations
they underscore the importance of encouraging people to take part in the sharing
economy as a platform for peer-to-peer business and innovation. In the long run, this
is said to contribute to both national and global growth. In concrete action, emphasis
seems to lay on being part of state commissions and shaping the public opinion. In
accordance, several seminars, reports and discussions have been initiated by employ-
er associations. Reports published by The Confederation of Swedish Enterprises
(Svenskt Näringsliv) do also stress the importance of finding a way to avoid regulati-
ons and tax that hampers potential innovation (Blix, 2015), and to analyze emerging
demands on competence and possible regulations concerning consumers’ rights, in-
tegrity and trade. Of particular interest, is the fact that business relying on a three par-
ty arrangement - the seller, the buyer and the company owning the digital platform
may end up blurring copy-right and ownership legislation in a way that constrain small
business (Svenskt Näringsliv, 2016).
Compared to above, the unions approach the sharing economy as an act of balance
between a classic stress on the importance of embracing new technology (cf. Rolands-
son, 2003), and a concern for members that might become exposed to either unpro-
fessional or unfair competition, threatening both quality and salaries. For instance,
the verdict in mentioned court case against UberPop, have been greeted by the Swe-
dish union Transport, seeing it as a confirmation of their view on Uber as untaxed and
unfair competition. Judging from different web-material, unions within the Swedish
Trade Union Confederation (TUC/LO) also seem to be more inclined to call for
measures regulating the emergence of simple services that leave staff that are less
qualified without job-security and unemployment allowance. So far, Swedish TUC
(LO) has not published any formal reports on the subject. Due to the fact that they will
be part of the state initiated public inquiry about the impact on work environment
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legislation, they have however formed a group that are about to look closer at the
consequence of the sharing economy. In contact with the authors of this report, the
coordinator of the group have referred to the status of self-employed, the responsibi-
lities of the company running the platform and its relation to anyone conducting work
on their platform, as topics that will be discussed.
The discussion is slightly different among unions that belong to The Swedish Confe-
deration of Professional Employees (TCO). The sharing economy still emerges as part
of a broader digitalization fostering demands on restructuring and challenges to the
psycho-social work environment (Unionen 2016). However, unions like Unionen (the
biggest white collar trade union in the private sector), have an ongoing discussion
about what the sharing economy actually may mean to the working conditions in the
future if former employed staff increasingly end up as freelancers or self-employed.
The fact that Unionen are one of the biggest unions that have started to organize self-
employed and free lancers in Sweden explains their engagement in the topic. In a re-
cently published report, they do also stress the importance of achieving a platform
economy, enabling self-employed/freelancers to engage in both innovative and susta-
inable modes of working. To do so, the report states that it is important to develop
procedures by which it becomes possible for them as a union to protect their mem-
bers’ interests and rights in relation to the platform owners (Unionen/Söderqvist
2016). In addition, they have initiated collaboration with the German union IG Metall,
to develop services that also allow them and their members to scrutinize different
platform owners (; see e.g.
When it comes to concrete measures that are taken, we may eventually conclude that
the Swedish unions, as well as the employer associations, mainly focus on influencing
the public opinion and being part of state initiated commissions. Thus, there seem to
have been a strong emphasis on uni-lateral measures, publishing reports and on ar-
ranging e.g. seminars and webinars about entrepreneurship or labor law in the sharing
economy. Unionens collaboration with the German union IG Metall, may however in-
dicate that further and perhaps more international measures will be taken.
5. Summary
A recent EU-report identifies four different narratives about the sharing economy (al-
so referred to as the Collaborative economy). To begin with, they talk about the idea
of a great transformation stressing a development that is community-led and optimis-
66 NCM Editing Tool
tic (green, social, and fair economic prosperity). This is a path that does not require
major regulatory intervention. Secondly, they refer to an idea about regulated sus-
tainability, in which governments push for regulatory and traditional intervention to
steer society toward sustainability and resolve unfair effects of the ‘sharing economy’.
The third idea often put forward, stresses a growth-oriented globalization in which
minimal government intervention leads to increasing inequality, social polarization,
and a negative impact on sustainability. The fourth and final idea is described as a
concern for barbarization, where traditional firms and work appear to be dis-
intermediated, decentralized, and parceled, before being re-intermediated through
algorithms allowing robots to substitute work, and forcing workers to perform rou-
tinized, repetitive micro-tasks. The Swedish debate can be said to draw on ideas of
how to achieve conditions making it possible to maintain regulated sustainability in
times where growth-oriented globalization based on ‘sharing’ platforms fosters hu-
man capital specialization and ‘virtual labor migrations’ (Codagnone et al., 2016).
Furthermore, the Swedish debate often depicts the sharing economy as a new com-
ponent within a broader and more extensive digital development. This means that the
sharing economy appears to be a phenomenon on the fringe of the labor market that
still has not shown its full potential. In other words, the sharing economy is at this
stage (i.e. during the end of 2016) emerging as a frontier or phenomenon to be ex-
plored and debated rather than regulated. A stress on being cautious with implement-
ing new regulations is further confirmed by governmental actors, employer associa-
tions and unions underscoring that it is important for Swedish legislators to await EU-
measures. Nevertheless, it can be pointed out that this type of economy and the work
life it fosters is still seen as something that is becoming increasingly more common,
and as such should be considered as an increasingly more important phenomenon for
governmental bodies to start tackle on a policy level. We may also point out that con-
crete initiatives concerning work life conditions are starting to emerge – such as the
recent initiation of a public inquiry assigned to look into work environment legislation
and mentioned European collaboration between Unionen and IG Metall.
Eventually, we may conclude that the debate in many respects revolves around public
inquiries and initiatives taken by the government and public authorities. However,
employer associations and unions are trying to influence the debate by taking uni-
lateral measures such as being part of commissions. In addition, most of them take a
variety of communicative measures aiming at influencing the public opinion.
NCM Editing Tool 67
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Full-text available
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Full-text available
The discussion on the digitalisation of work has intensified in recent years. The literature points to two main trends accelerated by digitalisation – work automation that eliminates or changes job functions, and the creation of work without jobs via digital platforms. This article addresses the question as to how social partners define digitalisation of work and their perception of its consequences, while also looking at their recent responses to it. Drawing on interviews with unions and employers' organisations in Denmark, Sweden and Germany, it examines social partner initiatives in the unilateral, tripartite and bipartite arenas on various forms of neo-corporatist labour market regulation. The focus is on service work in the private sector, an area of the economy currently under pressure from both automation and the trend towards work without jobs. Whereas the social partners seem to be very active in the unilateral arena in all three countries, responses differ in the tripartite and bipartite arenas. The article concludes by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the responses in the face of current digitalisation trends and existing models of labour market regulation.