Assessing the Gig Economy in Comparative Perspective: How Platform Work Challenges the French and American Legal Orders
47 Pages Posted: 29 May 2019
Date Written: 2019
Both the gig economy’s critics and supporters tend to assume that it represents an assault on current employment structures. Comparative theory, however, emphasizes that legal regimes are durable in the face of new challenges. Fortunately, the gig economy’s prevalence throughout the world gives scholars the chance to evaluate this tension. This paper analyzes whether platform work undermines existing legal systems by testing two comparative theories in the United States and France. The first predicts that French law should mobilize against platform firms to protect producers’ livelihoods and that American law should embrace these services for lowering consumer prices. The second forecasts that French welfare institutions should more aggressively safeguard gig workers’ wellbeing than their American counterparts. Surprisingly, the results show that neither hypothesis holds. Though France initially fought companies like Uber to preserve taxi drivers’ advantages, it began adopting a more consumer-friendly stance toward the sector after its 2017 elections. The United States, meanwhile, has become a site of mounting resistance to the way platform firms treat their workers. Furthermore, while U.S. social programs have done little to shield platform workers from market forces, those in France have evinced similar features; both countries have denied these laborers basic assurances such as a minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. These findings suggest that the gig economy embodies a significant challenge to long-standing legal regimes—one that could even cause dissimilar nations to converge in the coming years. Lawmakers will need to devote more attention to the plight of workers caught in what appears to be a fundamental legal reordering.
Keywords: gig economy, non-standard work, fissured workplace, labor law, employment law, workers' rights, comparative law, worlds of welfare
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