Europe’s political elite tend to focus on gig work and platforms as the harbingers of a dystopian nightmare.
A picture has been drawn of employees with less freedom and fewer options; people become slaves to algorithms and monopoly-seeking companies.
More recently, out of the chaos of the pandemic’s early days, a new story shot into the public consciousness: a generation breaking free from the clutches of traditional work arrangements.
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For the first time, people are demanding more flexibility regarding where, when and how they work, as recent technological advancements make this a viable option.
This is the Great Surrender: Millions of us reject the rat race in favor of purposeful work and a better work-life balance.
The question is: which story is closer to reality?
No simple answers
We need to be wary of anyone spewing black and white stories.
Even the most ardent proponents of freelancing, or the most avid remote evangelists, admit that both arrangements come with risks and challenges.
What is alarming, however, is the fact that EU policy makers do not seem to share this impartiality.
While there is a debate in the European Parliament about new working conditions, the story is overwhelmingly – almost cartoonishly – negative.
As a result, the proposed laws – to be voted on in the last week of October – will limit flexibility and opportunities for many freelancers.
That’s why we conducted the ‘Voice of Freelancers’ survey; for too long gig workers have been ignored, now with potentially dire consequences.
We hope that the needs of this overlooked group will finally be recognized and that the EU will water down its proposal before it is too late.
2500 freelancers across Europe have generously devoted their time to this urgent project. Read on for an exclusive preview of what we’ve learned.
The Voice of Freelancers (Highlights)
Politicians and the media are right to worry about taxi services and courier companies.
But what about the millions of developers, designers, lawyers, architects, musicians, educators, builders, healthcare professionals, beauticians and hairdressers – just to name a few – who are all working in a positive way?
Here’s what those people had to say:
- The majority of freelancers in our survey strive for a better lifestyle through gigging (77.5% of respondents said it was a “lifestyle choice”).
- “Flexibility” is considered the biggest benefit of gig work (62% of freelancers said they liked it the most. The next most common benefit, “Interesting/varied work”, was mentioned by only 17.8% of respondents chosen).
- Freelance work is a positive experience for the vast majority (91% of freelancers enjoy performing).
- However, the cost of living crisis has hit freelancers hard (33.3% of freelancers don’t have enough money to pay their bills).
- And there is a huge gender inequality in DIY work (71.3% of respondents are male).
- Contrary to popular belief, freelance work isn’t just for young people (nearly half of the freelancers in our survey are between the ages of 35 and 54).
- Gig work positively contributes to professional development (85% of respondents agree or strongly agree that freelancing helps them gain experience and gain new skills).
Both groups need protection
Obviously, there are no easy answers to this vast and complex topic.
But our data does indicate that for many people, DIY is a path to a better lifestyle and greater prosperity. Certainly not all, but a large segment? Absolute.
So, how can we justify making life harder for them in these financially uncertain times?
Let us be very clear: the EU’s mission – to ensure adequate rights and social protection for the most vulnerable workers – is our mission.
But in their effort to protect some people from exploitation, EU decision-makers risk not recognizing the bigger picture. Achieving this goal in such a way as to harm millions of other workers can never be considered a real victory.
The fact that no freelancers were consulted in drafting the latest regulatory proposals is unforgivable.
Gigworkers have had nothing to say about a process that will change their lives…
We call on EU politicians to review the findings of our survey – finally listening to the voice of freelancers – and deliver a policy framework fit for purpose. That means protecting the most vulnerable workers and empowering everyone else.
The digitization of the workforce is happening whether we like it or not. We can either be bold, imaginative and positive in our approach, and use this as an opportunity to create a healthier and more inclusive future of work, or we can drag our heels and hope for the best.
Which way is the EU going?
Stay tuned for the results of the vote later this month.