12 April 2018

How do social partners and new players respond to the collaborative economy in Denmark?

This report present the results of the Danish part of a EU-project, which investigates how traditional players on the labour market (trade unions, employers' associations, government) as well as new players (platforms, platform workers/providers) experience and respond to the collaborative economy. The study focuses on three industries – transport, hotels and restaurants and cleaning. Five case platforms are studied in detail: two labour platforms (Happy Helper, Chabber), two capital platforms (Airbnb and GoMore) and a combination of the two platform types (Uber). Methodologically, the project includes desk research, interviews and focus groups among all types of actors involved in the collaborative economy.

Today, the legal status of most platform workers in Denmark is ‘self-employed without employees’, and most labour platforms are perceived as facilitators of self-employment, i.e. they do not have employer status. This means that most workers in the collaborative economy are covered by company law. It also means that platform workers must report their income to the Danish tax authorities themselves. Regarding providers on capital platforms, i.e. citizens that rent out their home, car or other assets, they are also obliged to report this income to the tax authorities themselves. In general, the size of the collaborative economy in Denmark is still limited. Most platform workers/providers use the platforms to obtain an extra income, which means that they still depend on other sources as their main income.

One of the potentials in platform work seems to be the employment of vulnerable groups on the labour market. The flexibility of platform work (that you can sign in and out on a daily basis) suits those with chronic diseases well as they rarely know in advance if they have the health to work on a specific day. Also, the platforms allow migrants with limited language skills in Danish to enter the labour market. The tax issue is perceived as one of the main challenges and barriers for further growth in the collaborative economy – it is addressed by all involved actors interviewed, and all wish for clearer rules and easy ways to report income to SKAT. Many also argue for an automatic reporting of data from the platforms to SKAT. Furthermore, especially with regards to the labour platforms, it seems that the distribution of risks and the price setting mechanisms are areas of concern for both platform owners and workers. Most labour platforms facilitate solo self-employment of a relatively low volume per worker. This means that most workers neither are full time self-employed, registered in the VAT-register and obtain sufficient earnings to insure themselves and their work, nor are they employees hired by employers that pay and cover most of the risks involved in the work. Some platforms try to resolve this challenge by creating possibilities of full-time self-employment with higher hourly prices and/or private insurance schemes, whereas others have resolved it by creating a temporary work agency and attaining an employer status.

For the unions, the lack of social benefits in platform work appears to be a main concern. However, most workers/providers perceive their income via the platforms as an income supplement, which means that they are not as concerned as the unions about this issue. The employers’ organisations mention the unequal competition between platforms and traditional companies as a challenge. However, the limited size of the platform companies and their current customer base are reasons why the platforms are not perceived as a serious competition yet.  

The Danish part of the study has been conducted by Associate Professor Anna Ilsøe and Research Assistant Louise Weber Madsen, FAOS.

Read the publication: Industrial Relations and Social Dialogue in the Age of Collaborative economy (IRSDACE), National report Denmark