by George Vailakis

Today in the US, 30 million people base their main income on the gig economy” and 67% of full-time employees would not turn down a second job in it. In the European Union, only 2% of adults in 15 member states and the United Kingdom derive most of their income from the gig economy.

But, what is the current situation of gig economy in Greece?

Nine days after efood company, the largest food delivery company in Greece, informed its 115 distributors of its intention not to renew their three-month contract and suggested they should turn into freelancers, the company was forced to changed attitude.

In a new announcement issued on the 23rd of September 2021, the company announced that it has decided to transfer all existing fixed-term contracts, hiring 2,016 employees at efood with indefinite-term contracts, acknowledging their previous service.

This came after 9 days of strong reactions and mobilizations from the distributors of the platform, and a wave of negative comments from consumers and partner stores.

efood’s workers rally, Athens, September 2021

Legal gap”

However, this recent victory of the efood delivery workers who managed to regain their rights and receive a generous package of benefits, brings to the fore the debate on labor relations in the new working models concerning the so called “gig economy”.

The gig economy is a labor market made up of freelance or part-time jobs as opposed to full-time, fixed contracts. Gig workers can encompass a wide range of fields, from editing documents and providing technical support to driving a taxi or offering delivery services.

Konstantinos Pouliakas, CEDEFOP’s Expert on Skills and Labour Markets

Konstantinos Pouliakas, an Expert on Skills and Labour Markets at the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) explains the situation: “Whether gig workers should receive the same benefits as full-time employees is a ‘grey’ area and touches upon the core issue surrounding the gig/platform economy, namely what is the ‘proper’ employment classification of such workers. The answer is not clear-cut and depends on the extent to which we are referring to ‘macrowork’ (high-skilled project-based work) or ‘microwork’ (low-skilled, routine and standardised tasks). It also depends on the nature of intermediation services platforms offer and on whether or not many gig workers are actually engaged in what sometimes called ‘dependent’, ‘bogus’ or ‘disguised’ self-employment.

Greece and the gig economy

In Greece, relatively little is known about the gig economy, in terms of its prevalence, trend and potential.

Reliable statistics that would allow us to have an informed overview of the phenomenon are almost absent,” Konstantinos Pouliakas says. “The information that does exist tends to highlight that the gig economy phenomenon is still in its infancy in Greece. There are very few gig work platforms operating in the country (less than 150, in contrast to more than 250 in France), and –according to Eurobarometer data– Greeks are among the least likely to join them.

That said, considering that Greece has one of the highest rates of self-employment in the EU (and high youth and graduate unemployment rates), it is plausible that the ‘platform-gig work’ model can offer opportunities. The fact that in Greece top-gig occupations include software development and technology, creative multimedia and sales and marketing support is a clear opportunity. These occupations can contribute to strengthening the competitive position of the country in the global supply chain by incubating entrepreneurship and digitally intensive start-ups and technology clusters.

Τhe main problem with labor rights and the gig economy is annoyingly persistent. Of course, the case of efood and the model with which it operates is not its own discovery. However, efood’s change at such a crucial issue comes at a time when, at least in the Western world, the debate over the gig economy has ignited.”

The full article on the Gig Economy in Greece is published in the November/December 2021 of Greek Business File,  available here.