This might be a year when the gig economy’s standard bearers are forced to evolve swiftly. Companies such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb have been hugely disruptive over the past few years—creating new business and earning models, impacting a variety of sectors from the hospitality industry to public transport, and pointing to a changing definition of employment in the future.
But they have also run afoul of regulators, conventional rivals and their own service providers. Last year saw increasing friction between regulators in various US states and Uber, for instance. And now, research shows that regulatory compliance could cost Airbnb up to $400 million in London this year.
Many of these disputes revolve around the definition of employment. The gig economy giants’ claim that they simply offer platforms and don’t bear a regulatory burden for those who offer services via them is coming up against more conventional notions of employer and employee. The shape of the inevitable compromise will point to the gig economy’s future.