Fears over 'sharing economy' JobCentre measures


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The Independent Online

A Government report calling for JobCentres to use a new wave of short-term employment services to build skills among the unemployed has been criticised as “just another way to get the claimant count down” by a Labour MP.

A report into how the UK can become a global leader in the so-called “sharing economy”, commissioned by the Business and Enterprise Minister Matt Hancock in September and published today, includes the recommendation that JobCentres use services such as TaskRabbit and People-per-Hour to help unemployed people build up their CVs.

These platforms offer short term contracts to do everything from someone else’s shopping to designing an advert. They fall under the umbrella of the “sharing economy”, a loose term for businesses and platforms that allow people to make money from skills or assets through short-term rental or contracts. The most famous example is Airbnb, which lets people rent their flats when they are away.

But Alison McGovern, a Labour MP, expressed concerns about the recommendations, telling The Independent: “The Tories in Government have consistently underestimated the negative impact of the zero-hours culture on the UK labour market, and this is another example. I also worry this will become just another way to get the claimant count down, rather than help people find the work they want.

“Job Centre Plus have a vital role in helping people find work, but that help should be based on the sustainable employment people are asking for.”

The Government will respond in full to report in early 2015, but there is speculation that some of the recommendations could be included in the Autumn Statement. Other recommendations in the report, written by Debbie Wosskow, founder of property swap business LoveHomeSwap, include the creation of a tax framework for sharing businesses and for Whitehall to lead by example by using businesses such as Zipcar and Airbnb for transportation and accommodation of civil servants and ministers.