Gig economy and sharing economy in Italy: what you need to know

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If you are planning to launch your startup in Italy, you might be thinking about hiring staff to work on your project. If you are a freelancer or a digital nomad, on the other hand, you might be interested in finding work for a limited time and with flexible hours. In both cases, you are likely to become a part in what is – sometimes pejoratively – called the gig economy. This new and flexible way of organising work has been deemed controversial and met with resistance in several countries. How is the gig economy faring in Italy?

Gig economy and sharing economy: the controversy

Italy has registered mixed reactions to the gig economy and sharing economy revolution. While the advantages that they offer have been widely exploited, unions have engaged in vehement protests against them. You might be thinking that it is only “traditional” workers, such as taxi drivers, that object to the sudden popularity of apps like Uber, but that would be counterintuitive. A protest of Foodora riders, for instance, has shifted the attention on the fact that some workers, in the gig economy, have all the obligations of employees while enjoying none of the benefits and demanded that their jobs were regulated under existing Italian laws. By such laws, any job that involves constant coordination from the employer and that require employees to wear a uniform, travel to a company facility or acquire specific tools (such as a bike or a car), is a subordinate one and can not be considered a freelance position. This means it needs to be regulated by a proper contract with paid leave, fixed working hours and expense covering. Nothing has been deliberated on the Foodora case at the moment of writing this article, but companies wishing to rely on this kind of gig hiring should be aware of the possible implications.

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Freelancing in Italy, dos and don’ts

What should an entrepreneur do, in order to secure the services of freelancers in Italy, without having to hire every one of them as a long-term employee? Can the gig economy really take off in Italy? Things might be more complicated than a simple yes or no answer to this last question. Freelancing in Italy is no easy fit: the costs of taxation and social security, for instance, might be too high for someone starting off in their field. Unless they have a sizeable portfolio of clients to begin with, they might not get through their first freelancing year. This complicates things for companies relying on unskilled freelancers to work on low hourly rates, such as delivery and cleaning companies. Highly skilled freelancers, on the other hand, have much better chances of staying afloat, since they can charge better hourly rates for their services. This might make it easier, for instance, for startups to find freelance programmers, developers and project managers, whose work tends to be closer to the legal definition of freelancing.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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