Sharing economy data just came a step closer to being officially counted in ONS statistics

Lynsey Barber
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Car sharing and other types of data may soon be counted in official statistics (Source: CBS)

How much is the ever-growing so-called sharing economy really contributing to Britain's growth?

That's the question the country's top statisticians are grappling with as the likes of upstart businesses such as Uber, Airbnb, Task Rabbit and many more redefine the way we work.

Now, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed the details of its first assessment of how counting that information might work in practice.

Let's just say, there may be a few stumbling blocks until the figures are counted, but the latest update from bean-counting HQ is positive news.

Read more: Uber drivers can use the new sharing economy tax breaks - but here's why they won't

It's estimated the sharing economy will generate £9bn of revenue in the UK by 2025 and the ONS have looked at the potential for collecting data from surveys, administrative data and big data to produce official statistics on the sharing economy.

The feasibility study identified six next steps which need to be taken, including agreement formal definition for the sharing economy, in order to proceed.

Six steps

1. Defining the sharing economy, including types of activities, whether businesses or households are included and moer, with academics, the private sector and across government.

2. Adding sharing economy questions to existing surveys used for data collection.

3. Keep pace with any changes to sharing economy data gathering across Europe

4. Work with businesses in the sharing economy to access data and understand how the business works

5. Information already collected on turnover, employment and industry classification should be used to identify sharing economy businesses.

6. Exploration of using scraping, APIs and other data access from websites to get sharing economy data.

“This is a very positive step from the ONS towards being able to understand the impact the sharing economy is having on the UK," said the Institute of Directors' Jimmy McLoughlin.

Read more: Airbnb tax breaks prove Britain's a world leader when it comes to the sharing economy

"Britons have enthusiastically adopted this new way of using their cars, homes and other assets and skills, so it’s important that official statistics take account of this rapidly growing area of economic activity.”

Counting of the sharing economy within national figures on productivity and economic growth has the support of many of the businesses operating in it and has been backed by business secretary Sajid Javid.

"It's great to see ONS recognising how our economy is changing," said Debbie Wosskow, chair of industry group Sharing Economy UK and founder of Love Home Swap.

"Ultimately better data can and will make for a more informed policy debate. Tackling this now will ensure the UK remains the true home of the sharing economy."

It's estimated that more than 2.5m each month are part of the sharing economy, from selling items on eBay or Etsy to renting out a room on Airbnb or doing carpooling and those who do participate were handed a tax break worth up to £2,000 by chancellor George Osborne in the latest Budget.

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