Fairwork Belgium will be implementing the Fairwork framework to assess platforms operating in the main urban cities clustering both the capital (Bruxelles) as well as those in both the Flemish (e.g. Leuven, Antwerpen, Ghent) and French (e.g. Liege, Charleroi) regions. The new team in Belgium will be formed by Valeria Pulignano, Milena Franke, Markieta Domecka, and Claudia Marà. They, particularly Valeria and Claudia, will also collaborate in the undertaking interviews with workers and platforms in Italy.
Belgium is a pioneer in Europe regarding the regulation of gig work. In 2016, the government introduced dedicated legislation for digital platforms that hoped to encourage platform development as well as citizens’ participation as users, workers and entrepreneurs. The ‘De Croo’ law (Loi-De Croo), which came into effect in 2017, allows officially recognized platforms to use the so-called ‘peer-to-peer’ (P2P) employment status in Belgium. The law enabled workers on recognized platforms to earn up to €63,400 annually (the amount is indexed yearly) tax-free. This framework meant workers cannot work over a certain level, or they will pay taxes, which led to a lot of turnover between platforms. Only recently, the Belgian Constitutional court has overturned this scheme and a tax rate of 10 per cent on platform earnings will apply again from 2021 onwards. Furthermore, under the De Croo Act, the service providers are not liable to pay social security. As they are not legally self-employed, gig workers cannot pay their own contributions either, leaving them without adequate protection.
The team started to collect data on the Belgium gig economy in May 2020 with the funding received from the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant ResPecTMe (‘Researching Precariousness across the Paid/Unpaid Work Continuum’) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement n° 833577). They hope to use the Fairwork framework to contribute to the ongoing policy debates in Belgium on how employment protections and the regulation of the platform economy can be extended to gig workers in the country.