Five minutes with Debbie Wosskow OBE
Debbie Wosskow is a doyenne of the sharing economy.
Her peer-to-peer travel platform, Love Home Swap, is the world’s biggest home swapping group, and in 2014 she authored the independent review ‘Unlocking the Sharing Economy’, which made recommendations to the UK government on how best to develop the burgeoning sharing economy.
“There is real potential for the UK to embrace digital change and expand as a vibrant and inclusive economy”
A report released earlier this year showed how the UK is drastically behind other G7 countries in terms of national productivity output. A significant factor in turning this around will be the sharing economy, through its inherent advantages of decreasing waste, effectively and efficiently matching need and demand, and providing a lifeline to those unable to work in more ‘traditional’ jobs.
“The sharing economy is empowering millions of people to contribute to a vibrant economy”
It unlocks the value of their time, skills and assets to make money in ways and on a scale never possible before. People can now make money through offering their skills through platforms like Taskrabbit; offering seats in their car through BlaBlaCar, or holidaying in alternative accommodation – renting through Airbnb or swapping their homes with Love Home Swap.
“The UK’s top five sharing economy sectors may generate £140bn in transactions by 2025”
It’s clear that the UK sharing economy is really taking off and the hunger is very much current: visits to sharing economy-related websites have tripled so far in 2016.
“For some women, the sharing economy offers a lifeline back into work”
The sharing economy provides a new flexible way of working, which is allowing people to work as micro entrepreneurs and create income without committing to the demands of a more traditional job; it’s perfect for stay at home parents, retirees and students. For example 44% of economic inactivity in women of working age in London is due to caring responsibilities such as being a mother. Women are the major participants in the sharing economy and around a third of sharing economy businesses have been founded or co-founded by women; the sector seems set to have a real impact on why and how women will work in the future.
“For many, the prospect of traditional employment is actually quite outdated”
The way the British public chooses to work is also changing. The concept of traditional work is actually quite a rigid and unattractive concept. There has been a real shift in what people want from an employer, with millennials eager for flexibility. The sharing economy provides this new workforce with more control over time, rates and where their work.
"We have worked closely with the UK government, and seen great results”
One of Sharing Economy UK’s key aims is to make the sharing economy mainstream. That means working with regulators and policy makers. Many of our recommendations have been included in policy and the UK budget, for example, the world’s first sharing economy tax break of up to £2,000. We are also is in the process of creating the world’s first nationally recognised trade body trust mark for sharing economy companies. The UK is on the cusp of something very exciting but there is a lot more to be done to harness the benefits.
“New ways of measuring productivity”
It’s impossible to track the contribution of everyone involved in the sharing economy through official economic statistics. The peer-to-peer nature of the sharing economy has essentially created a ‘measurement gap’. GDP cannot measure or put a value on ‘time saved’ by individuals, increased choice and lower cost of products, all of which are key consumer benefits of using the sharing economy. A recent report from Diane Coyle [a leading economist] calls for changes to official economic data collection to focus more on individuals, accurately reflecting the increasing overlap between ‘the economy’ and everyday life and the need to modernise the current economic measurement tools.