Maneuvering for global standards on the "sharing economy"

The burgeoning concept of a "sharing economy" involves the sharing of goods and services by individuals, companies, and other entities. As it becomes increasingly popular, challenges are arising.

A survey conducted in Japan last year by PwC Consulting found 54 percent of the respondents felt a need for authorities to create or strengthen regulations or rules for the sharing economy.

Japan is leading efforts to create international standards. In 2016, the government crafted guidelines stipulating rules for domestic providers of sharing services. In 2018, the Sharing Economy Association, Japan launched its own certification system, requiring providers to get rid of false information and thoroughly check the identities of service users.

A proposal from Japan prompted the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, to try to develop global standards for sharing services. The country serves as the secretariat and chair of the ISO's technical committee, which is tasked with the job.

Standards set by the 162-member ISO are regarded as the most solid in the world. They have significant influence as they are incorporated in international deals and cited in legal regulations around the world.

The first session of an international conference to set ISO standards on sharing activities took place in Tokyo on June 13 and 14. It brought together about 30 government officials from the United States, China, France, and five other countries as well as consumer groups, labor unions, and other relevant organizations.


The meeting was held behind closed doors. But participants told NHK that delegates underscored the need to protect consumers, such as their privacy and personal information.

A new work style was also discussed during the meeting. A representative from a European labor union argued that workdays in the sector should be regulated. But a US official countered that each worker should be allowed to decide how long they work.

Couriers for the Japanese unit of Uber Eats are planning to form a labor union.

The meeting drew keen attention from across the globe as the result of its discussions could affect the future of the sharing economy. China sent a delegation of six officials to the first session. That was the second largest of all participating nations. It came to light that China had even declared its candidacy to chair the conference.

Japan aimed to build consensus among the delegates on holding future discussions based on rules it had studied with Britain. But it failed this time. One of the Japanese delegates, Hideaki Ninomiya of the Sharing Economy Association, Japan, said the participants agreed on the need for international rules and expressed hope that the Japan-led efforts would bear fruit as soon as possible.

Observers say it takes about three years to develop ISO standards. Jockeying over rule-making for the sharing economy is expected to continue for some time.