With the popularity and trend of global economic development in the digital age, the sharing economy has played an essential role in modern people’s lives. It has a significant influence on the business market. As an economic model that breaks away from the traditional model, the sharing economy shares resources or services through online platforms to obtain financial benefits.
In Australia, the sharing economy model has penetrated the daily lives of Australians. As a diversified country, the government and people have also participated in and responded to the development trend of the sharing economy. The impact of the sharing economy on Australians covers many aspects, such as economy, society, and culture, the most significant of which are platforms such as Uber and Airbnb. How the sharing economy model will positively or negatively impact Australia will be worthy of detailed discussion.
Provide a convenient lifestyle
Sharing economy platforms provide Australians convenient travel and accommodation options to serve people with different needs. Among them, Uber’s user experience is the most significant in Australians’ experience of making life more convenient. Uber provides a travel mode with high efficiency and personalized services. Different service forms can be selected according to user needs, such as the various models that Uber can provide. The sharing economy digital platform is based on the nature that participants can complete tasks such as matching and payment through the platform’s centralized processing, reflecting the convenience and speed advantages of the sharing economy. (Sutherland & Jarrahi, 2018) The sharing economy platform’s extensive business hours, scope, and services meet people’s needs and improve the travel and life experience of Australians.
Job opportunities: Gig economy
One of the critical factors why the sharing economy can have an impact on Australia is the gig economy. The gig economy has promoted market innovation in Australia, developed new business models, and developed digital platforms for the sharing economy. The gig economy originated from the rise of the sharing economy. As Vallas and Schor (2020) mentioned, Participants in the gig economy usually use platforms as intermediaries to earn income from offline gig tasks such as online ride-hailing and food delivery; the advantage is that they can flexibly arrange working hours and make independent choices. The gig economy has created more jobs in Australia, especially for people who require flexible work and people who need extra income. In Australia, the gig economy has brought explosive growth to the Australian economy, with The Actuaries Institute reporting that it increased by 33% in 2019 alone, reaching a $6.3 billion valuation. The gig economy is undoubtedly one of the driving forces of Australian economic growth.
Reuse of idle resources
The development of the sharing economy has diversified the Australian economy and is no longer limited to a single traditional industry. The sharing economy makes full use of idle resources as economic assets, prompting tangible goods to be converted into services and shared. This economic model creates more self-employment opportunities for the self-employed. Taking Australia’s Airbnb as an example, vacant properties can be used as economic resources for short-term rental on the digital platform, and property owners can obtain economic benefits from them. Airbnb costs are generally 30–60% less expensive than hotel rates worldwide, and consumers can get the short-term accommodation they want at lower prices and with more choices on Airbnb. The sharing economy fully activates idle resources and improves Australia’s productivity. In addition to this, the sharing economy has also become one of the drivers of tourism, transportation, and sustainability in Australia.
Tax and regulatory challenges
While the sharing economy has provided positive impacts to Australia, it has also presented more severe challenges. There are endless discussions on taxation and regulatory issues in the sharing economy digital platforms. The sharing economy is liable for current taxes, including income tax and the VAT. (Bozdoganoglu, 2017) Recently, Victoria, Australia, proposed the possibility of imposing a 7.5% tax on Airbnb prices. Airbnb believes that this tax rate is too high. Under the direct intervention of the government, the immediate increase in tax rates on sharing platforms will cause higher tax costs to be pushed down on participants and consumers, resulting in excessively high unit prices for goods. Imposing high taxes on sharing economy platforms may become the culprit that hinders the development of new digital economic models and unfair competition between markets. (Bozdoganoglu, 2017) Tax issues may impede the progress of industries and economic development, such as Australia’s tourism industry.
labor rights issues
In Australia, thanks to the development of sharing economy platforms, more and more people are choosing to become gig work participants. However, as a non-traditional form of work, workers’ rights and well-being do not seem to be consistent with traditional labor protections. Australia’s current workplace regulations are inadequate for gig workers. Although the sharing economy provides gig employees with a flexible nature of work, it is precisely because of the nature of their work that they are unable to obtain basic protections such as minimum hourly wages and safety issues. According to a report released by Safe Work NSW, a total of 45 incidents involving food delivery riders occurred between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. In the absence of long-term basic protections, workers need to bear the risks and costs initially borne by employers and the state, which demonstrates the precarious and fragile status of labor rights. (Sutherland & Jarrahi, 2018) Due to imperfect labor laws and regulatory issues, more and more workers are working in stressful and uncertain working environments, and the lack of fundamental labor rights leaves them isolated and helpless.
The rental market is being squeezed
With the rise of the sharing economy, Australia’s rental market has suffered unprecedented impact and pressure. On the short-term shared accommodation platform led by Airbnb, Airbnb Features 115,000 postings for either rooms or complete homes. The emergence of the short-term rental market has changed the environment of Australia’s long-term rental market. Most of Australia’s housing stock is currently used for short-term rentals, the vacancy rate has reached a record low, and prices have proliferated. This has led to an embarrassing situation in Australia’s rental market. Due to the shortage of housing and high rents, many locals cannot rent long-term housing in the areas where they live. Some of them are forced to choose shared accommodation to meet their housing needs. Since Airbnb’s dominance of the rental market has left many people homeless, the problems in the rental market are no longer simply limited to house rentals. Social and economic factors have successively entered the discussion of the sharing economy, and issues such as government policy and housing equity have gradually become social issues in Australia.
Compared with the traditional economic model, the impact of the sharing economy on Australia is undoubtedly significant. In addition to enjoying the economic benefits and well-being that the sharing economy brings to Australia, how to deal with the risks and challenges it brings is equally essential. The government’s role in policy formulation and supervision is particularly important in balancing the development and risks of the sharing economy. Among them, the government needs to supervise and protect the rights and interests of workers, consumers, and digital platforms and formulate and promulgate relevant policies and regulations to ensure the positive operation and sustainable development of the sharing economy in Australia. At the same time, sharing economy participants also need to respond to relevant laws and regulations to maintain good social and economic development. In the future, the sharing economy may play a more critical role in the development of technology and market trends. As a new economic model, while enjoying its huge impact, Australia must not lose the ability to think to promote Australia’s continued growth in the sharing economy.
Bozdoganoglu, B. (2017). Tax Issues Arise From a New Economic Model: Sharing Economy. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 8. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Burcin-Bozdoganoglu/publication/322211247_Tax_Issues_Arise_From_a_New_Economic_Model_Sharing_Economy/links/5a4bd5f2aca2729b7c894760/Tax-Issues-Arise-From-a-New-Economic-Model-Sharing-Economy.pdf
Sutherland, W., & Jarrahi, M. H. (2018). The sharing economy and digital platforms: A review and research agenda. International Journal of Information Management, 43, 328-341. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2018.07.004
Vallas, S., & Schor, J. B. (2020). What do platforms do? Understanding the gig economy. Annual Review of Sociology, 46(1), 273-294. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-121919-054857
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Gig economy workers fear for their safety. (2022, August 3). AIHS. https://www.aihs.org.au/news-and-publications/news/gig-economy-workers-fear-their-safety
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Ting, I., Shatoba, K., & Palmer, A. (2022, September 21). Australia’s runaway rents. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-21/australia-is-in-the-grip-of-its-worst-rental-crisis/101453246
University of Sydney. (2023, June 20). Gig economy needs to see creative reforms from the federal government. https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2023/06/20/the-australian-government-needs-to-be-creative-with-gig-economy-.html