EU Science Hub

EU collaborative economy: a research agenda for policy support

Digital platforms are the key element of the collaborative economy; they enable matchmaking between providers and users of goods and services at very low costs.
©Fotolia, juliabatsheva
Dec 16 2016

The latest JRC work puts forward a research agenda to strengthen the scientific evidence base for the development of policies that maximise the benefits and minimise the costs for all the stakeholders involved in the collaborative economy. Based on an analysis of more than 100 collaborative platforms, it tackles the need for more data, trust and transparency, evaluates the impact on the labour market and ensures social rights in this new work environment.

Much praised as a source of economic opportunities but feared to be a driver of inequality, the collaborative economy is a multifaceted phenomenon and challenge for policy-makers.

The collaborative economy encompasses a variety of for-profit and non-profit initiatives and transactions and involves users ranging from individuals to businesses and public institutions. Digital platforms are a key element of the collaborative economy as they enable matchmaking between providers and users of goods and services at very low costs, and facilitate participation of individuals as providers in this market place. Without an anchored place in existing legal frameworks, regulatory uncertainty emerges as one of the key concerns.

The research needs are described in the report 'The European Collaborative Economy: A research agenda for policy support', and build on recent JRC work, including on the foresight study 'The future of the EU collaborative economy: Using scenarios to explore future implications for employment'. The latter primarily focuses on digital labour market platforms, one of the controversial sectors of the collaborative economy. The findings of the study point to the need to address issues divided in three thematic groups: social protection and rights of workers in these new work environments; data protection for users and service providers; and competences and skills necessary to succeed in the collaborative economy.

Both studies were carried out in support of the Commission’s European agenda for the collaborative economy, adopted in June 2016 to provide guidance on how existing EU laws should be applied to this sector and to clarify key issues faced by market operators and public authorities.

Other JRC work on collaborative economy published earlier this year includes The Passions and the Interests: Unpacking the Sharing Economy; The Future of Work in the ‘Sharing Economy’: Market Efficiency and Equitable Opportunities or Unfair Precarisation?; Scoping the Sharing Economy: Origins, Definitions, Impact and Regulatory Issues; and An Economic Policy Perspective on Online Platforms.

JRC work on collaborative economy dates back to 2015, when a research programme was initiated to explore the EU collaborative economy with the aim to inform European policy.