New study examines the role of gender in the collaborative economy

Dr Eugenia Caracciolo di Torella from Leicester Law School has jointly authored a report to the European Commission on the potential impact of the collaborative economy on gender equality.

Broadly-speaking, the collaborative economy is a rapidly growing business model where goods and services are shared for the mutual benefit of the service provider and the consumer. UBER and Airbnb are well-known examples. It is a recent development that has rapidly expanded and legislators at both EU and national level are still grappling with it.

The report highlights that gender equality concerns may arise in two specific areas, namely the service providers or the consumers. The first case is linked to employment-related conditions, for example rights such as social security entitlements or sick leave for an UBER driver. The second case occurs when services or goods are offered in a discriminatory way against gender equality. An Airbnb room offered only to women for instance?

If discrimination occurs how do we determine the relevant liability: if an Airbnb customer is denied a room on the ground of their gender or is sexually harassed, who is responsible? The platform (Airbnb) or the service provider (the host)? If there is a case of sexual harassment in an UBER taxi, who would be responsible: the service provider (driver) or the platform (UBER)? The EU response to these issues is not cohesive and differs across the Member States.

There may be further ‘unintended’ gendered consequences. Platforms such as Couchsurfing and Airbnb will impact the hotel market in which many women work: how will these changes affect them?

The study argues that the collaborative economy has the potential to affect the principle of gender equality in many respects, and as it continues to develop, these will become more apparent. It is clearly time to acknowledge and regulate the potential impact that the collaborative economy may have on gender equality.

Read the paper online Doi:10.2838/93021

Dr Eugenia Caracciolo di Torella profile

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