Ordering dinner or weekly shopping online has never been easier. In many cities, you can now order a car from your phone in minutes. All this is possible thanks to two tools: technologies that facilitate instant transactions and the gig economy and freelancers that carries the final product or service.
An estimated 24% of Americans are involved as workers in the gig economy or in Freelancing. It is probably one of the most important labor market trends of these years. In the western world, the spread of this sector is driven by those seeking greater flexibility and freedom of work, while in developing countries it has helped the unemployed to enter the labor market, giving further impetus to economic growth.
Despite all this, however, it remains a crucial aspect: payments. If it is so instant to make transactions in the market, why is it so hard to pay workers? One of the biggest barriers is not having a bank account. Of the nearly six billion adults in the world, it is estimated that 1.7 of them do not have a bank account: the so-called unbanked . In the Western world, this is difficult to imagine, but in some countries, obtaining the necessary documentation makes it seem almost impossible to pass on to us. This is especially true for economies like China and India where the unbanked population is the majority.
Problems such as being paid in a currency other than the reference currency and the payment of processing fees make things even more difficult. Whether or not the gig economy workers and Freelancers are involved, a solution to this problem should be welcomed, considering that traditional banking systems do not solve the problems of an important part of global workers.
Last month, Facebook announced the Libra project – a global digital currency powered by social network technology. Could it be a solution to the problem? With two billion users, Facebook has the potential to create one of the largest platforms in the world and connect billions of people to an economy. Through Libra, a worker in the gig economy or working as freelancer with a Facebook account will be able to receive his payment as quickly as the consumer receives the products and services from the market. Hypothetically, with Libra, problems such as accessibility to the bank account and rigidity in choosing the payment currency may disappear.
It sounds easy, but there are still several barriers to bypass. It is a potentially revolutionary phase for global finance but it remains to be seen how legislators and governments will react and regulate technology. It is likely that not all countries will allow Libra to see the light of day. Despite this, the idea of building a payment system in a platform that counts almost a one third of the world’s population is a very positive sign to encourage financial inclusion, also and above all of workers in the gig economy and freelancing job.
While the impact of the Libra project on Facebook still remains to be discovered, I am confident that this will favor the debate on the regulation of cryptocurrencies and on the evolution of the banking system. Even more so, if the leading countries – especially the developing ones – will definitely open the doors to the crypto world. In this case we could see an even faster development of these economies.