Senate calls for redefinition of gig economy workers

The government needs to prepare a long-term plan to prepare the Australian workforce for coming technological changes, as well as the rise of non-standard employment – also known as the gig economy – the Department of the Senate advised yesterday.

The report recommends that gig economy workers should be reclassified as employees, rather than independent contractors, in order to afford them the full protection and benefits of Australia’s employment laws.

“Casual work, labour hire, sham contracting, the gig economy – these have all become terms which are familiar to growing numbers of Australians,” the report reads.

“But they are more than mere words. They are familiar forms of work which in certain guises reduce workers rights and protections, and often deny workers access to basic rights and conditions that workers and unions have fought hard for.”

This potential redefinition is of growing importance as more markets introduce gig economy-style offerings, and, as the report notes, the Australian population grows and the number of workers moving into non-standard employment increases.

However, changing the way these workers are contractually defined could potentially limit or eliminate the advantages of working in the gig-economy, by removing the flexibility of working under these conditions.

The report also found that Australia has fallen behind in several key emerging markets, such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things, and recommends that it should position itself as a leader in the development and ethics in these fields.

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