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“Make the Nordic region a growth centre for the sharing economy”

“Make the Nordic region a growth centre for the sharing economy”

| Text: Marie Preisler

The Nordic region can become a centre for the sharing economy, which would benefit all of society. But politicians are asleep at the wheel, thinks Charlotte Fischer from the Danish Social Liberal Party. She sits on the Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Congestion Commission and is a member of the regional council of The Capital Region of Denmark.

The sharing economy helps provide a range of new sustainable solutions to many of the largest social problems facing the Nordic countries. But for that to happen politicians must act now in order to stop the new sharing economy business models being strangled by red tape before they even get off the ground. Politicians must also make sure that the new economy does not instigate a two-tier labour market, with people working slave-like contracts.

This is what Charlotte Fischer thinks, a politician herself and a member of the Danish government coalition member the Social Liberal Party.

“The Nordic region offers perfect conditions to allow the sharing economy to blossom and benefit society. But sadly politicians are sat passively watching while the sharing economy is accelerating. This means we stand to loose out on its huge potential, and we also risk a development within the labour market which will benefit no one,” she says.

She is convinced that many of the new sharing economy business models, which are popping up everywhere these days, can deliver new and sustainable answers to a range of the most pressing problems which are currently facing society — for instance congestion and traffic problems, uncertainty, crime and loneliness.

“The sharing economy benefits both individuals and society as a whole, not least when it comes to the environment because it reduces the pressure on resources. We can save more than 3,000 tonnes of CO2 every year by pooling our car journeys, and it would also ease congestion,” Charlotte Fischer points out.

She highlights a service called Gomore, which in just a few years has grown to be able to offer more than 1,000 people a lift every day.

Remove red tape

Sharing economy services can also help reduce insecurity and crime, predicts Charlotte Fischer. There are for instance several new neighbourhood help schemes which both lead to a greater feeling of safety and prevents crime. These can be alternatives to CCTV. Many of the new services, such as those  offering joint cooking sessions and mutual help, make it easier for lonely elderly people and others who lack a larger personal network to break out of their isolation, she reckons.

People in the Nordic countries are incredibly trusting, which means that the sharing economy finds very fertile ground here, says Charlotte Fischer. Trust is the main prerequisite for daring to use any of the services. Nordic citizens are also ahead when it comes to Internet usage, which the sharing economy is based on.

She wants to encourage politicians to pass legislation as quickly as possible which would both stimulate and regulate the sharing economy. There is an urgent need to remove red tape and to create rules for the taxation and insurance of sharing economy businesses, she thinks.

“The sharing economy needs a good, clear framework so that the users know how much they can drive or rent out without having to pay taxes. They also need to know what their rights are and what protection they might be entitled to if things suddenly disappear or are broken, or if they themselves get hurt.”

Avoiding a two-tiers labour market

However, politicians must not drown the sharing services with demands for safety, accessibility and consumer protection. Because the sharing services should not become professional alternatives to hotels and taxis, she thinks. But there is a need to establish minimum demands for wages and working conditions. If not, things can go really wrong:

“Politicians and the social partners must remain super focused on how to prevent the sharing economy from undermining the labour market which we have today. We must be careful not to introduce through the backdoor a two-tier labour market with slave-like conditions for the workers in the new sharing economy businesses.”

The Danish Transport Authority has reported the taxi sharing service Haxi to the police in order to find out whether it is in breach of legislation covering taxi operations. But Charlotte Fischer thinks much more needs to be done in order to investigate the need for new frameworks which would include the new economy.

She recognises the fact that the sharing economy will cost jobs and money in some sectors. On the other hand the sharing economy represents enormous innovation in the shape of new business models with massive potential.

Create an offensive plan of action

She recommends Nordic politicians to allow themselves to be inspired by the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has commissioned a thorough investigation of the phenomenon. This will form the basis for his offensive plan of action for turning Great Britain into a mecca for the sharing economy, to be presented next spring.

The Nordic region needs to think as progressively and make national strategies for the sharing economy, Charlotte Fischer underlines.

“Rather than joining the choir of the worried, we should do like Portland, Amsterdam and now very soon Great Britain and welcome the sharing economy. We will give it a clear, strong framework which will allow its innovators and users to thrive and blossom. In some areas we should give the sharing economy the right of way, for instance when it comes to traffic. To do that we need sharp visionary politicians who dare to confront established interests.”

The sharing economy is not yet of universal interest in Denmark. Just three percent of the population have taken an active part in the sharing economy either as providers or recipients over the past six months according to a new survey carried out by TNS Gallup on behalf of Nordea. One in four Brits are using online sharing services.


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