When I look back to when we started Glovo, what strikes me most is that how people use the platform today is very different to how I’d imagined it. The hot topic in tech at the start of the decade was the sharing economy. Everybody, from Uber and Airbnb to Bla Bla Car, identified with it and it was a space we slotted into nicely at the time.
Initially, the sharing economy was assumed to be a peer-to-peer (P2P) network for goods and services. The idea was that private individuals would be empowered, through digital technology and platform companies, to use their spare time to share and provide goods and services in a highly flexible economic framework. However, for most of those businesses, but especially for platforms such as ours, this is not what happened. Instead of people using their free time to supplement their income, for many of them, it became their main source of income.
In Europe alone, some 24 million people – around 11 per cent of the workforce – are estimated to have provided a service through a digital platform at least once in their life. Of that number, over three million rely solely on platform work as a primary source of income, nine million use it to supplement their incomes, and nearly seven million see it as an occasional source of extra income1.
One thing is crystal clear: to an awful lot of people the gig economy is an economic lifeline and absolutely essential.
A fairer future
As a founder, I think that the platform economy is far from its potential and its promise. The conversations around job security and workers rights are important and they are, as everything is when it affects a huge number of people, complicated. But they are conversations that need to be had to drive change.
Today, I believe we find ourselves at a crossroads. Platforms, social stakeholders and regulators have an opportunity to create a fairer future for platform workers and the gig economy in general. The platform economy, as it exists currently, needs to change. And I think that that change needs to be toward the individual worker.
While digital technology has opened up amazing new opportunities for work – it’s no longer necessary today to work the traditional nine-to-five – the platform economy still lags behind in defining social rights for those that end up depending on it. We have always said that workers should have access to the same rights, regardless of their employment or work status with the company, and that the companies should cover those additional costs, and that’s why we have implemented The Couriers Pledge.
The Couriers Pledge
The Couriers Pledge, which we created with advice from the Fairwork foundation, establishes a new set of standards that includes fair hourly earnings (guided by WageIndicator foundation’s data on fair earnings and living wages), improvements to insurance coverage and access to training, safety and maintenance provisions.
The initiative also provides more channels for dialogue with couriers and their associations, and an independently validated appeals process. We believe we have a responsibility to help platform workers come together and have their voices heard, through representation and collective bargaining agreements. Of course, trade unions should also be a part of the solution, helping to negotiate better conditions through a collective voice, as well as helping to upskill individuals who are transitioning professionally.
We’ll be rolling out The Couriers Pledge to cover 40 per cent of our couriers by the end of mid 2022 and in all of the countries where we operate by the end of 2023. Fairwork will be auditing how we meet our commitments, evaluating the progress we make against its five principles of fair work, and making these results public.
I’m sure people are going to ask: why now? Today, we collaborate with around 75,000 couriers in 26 countries but by 2023 we expect to be collaborating with around 240,000 couriers on a monthly basis worldwide. That’s a lot of people, many of whom will be relying on our platform as their primary source of income, or in some cases their only source.
I have seen no solid reasons why we cannot guarantee basic social rights while, at the same time, maintaining the positives of the platform economy. As Europeans, social rights are the very heart of our culture. As entrepreneurs our goal should be to solve problems and challenges while making a positive impact. I believe that we can create a flexible, sustainable and dignified framework for platform work – of which The Couriers Pledge is our first step.
1 Meyer, David — Gig Economy: Europe Tells Companies To Negotiate With Workers Or Face New Laws (Fortune, February 24th, 2021)
To find out more about The Couriers Pledge, please visit www.thecourierspledge.com
by Sacha Michaud, Co-founder of Glovo