Norway: Change of attitudes to the 'sharing economy'

The 'sharing economy' is currently a hotly debated topic among the social partners in Norway, with employers' organisations largely embracing the phenomenon and unions warning against potential negative aspects.

The largest employers’ organisation, NHO, is warming up to aspects of the sharing economy such as accommodation service Airbnb and transport service Uber. Instead of trying to resist their arrival in Norway, employers’ organisations as well as the Government now seem keen to integrate them into the mainstream economy. NHO leader Kristin Skogen Lund has admitted that there is internal disagreement over companies like Uber and Airbnb within her own organisation, but NHO member Abelia (Organisation for knowledge and technology firms) has now organised a number of new sharing economy companies including Uber and Norwegian firms we Clean, and Leieting.

'We need to embrace the innovation that these companies bring', says Håkon Haugli, director of Abelia. He underscores that firms in the sharing economy must be regulated in a reasonable manner to ensure they pay taxes, are covered by insurance and adhere to Norwegian labour law. At NHO's annual conference in January, entitled 'Remix' and dedicated to the topic of the 'new working life', NHO stressed the importance of digital innovation. It urged member companies to embrace the opportunities presented by digitalisation as a modern-day industrial revolution.

LO, Norway's largest union confederation, has voiced serious concerns. They point out that much of the so-called 'sharing economy' is not so much about sharing as it is about non-standard forms of employment and suggest finding a different name. LO leader Gerd Kristiansen warns that without comprehensive regulation the sharing economy could undermine organised working life, lead to a growth in undeclared work and worsen working conditions. A self-employed and unorganised Uber driver will, for example, have no guaranteed income and fewer rights concerning pension, sick leave and parental leave, while operating in breach of the regulations imposed on conventional taxi services.    

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