Can someone please gag the anti gig economy crowd? It’s not all bad

The gig economy is ultimately a force for good that empowers vulnerable people

Lets be clear: the companies in the gig economy may have their problems, but that doesn’t change the fact that they provide the means for people in a number of marginalised positions to generate extra income where there was no income before.

Lets be clear: the companies in the gig economy may have their problems, but that doesn’t change the fact that they provide the means for people in a number of marginalised positions to generate extra income where there was no income before.

 

“Slavery” is a word that has been used one too many time by opponents of the gig economy. The “Gig Economy”. As if it were some well-organised militia led by the frat boys running the show at Uber.

The gig economy is recognised more for its shortcomings than anything else. The autonomy it affords some people rarely receives the attention it deserves.

Ignore the incendiary and contemptible behaviour of a few of the new sector’s leading CEOs. This gig economy is ultimately a force for good that empowers many vulnerable people and provides autonomy to others trying to make their way into other, more rewarding careers.

Single mothers, older people, and the long-term unemployed can also enjoy a kind of work flexibility no other economy offers

It is increasingly becoming an valuable entrance into the workforce of more developed countries for immigrants – legal or otherwise. Single mothers, older people, and the long-term unemployed can also enjoy a kind of work flexibility no other economy offers.

Traditional structures exclude many people from the opportunity to pay their own way. Instead, we accuse them of being parasites on society when, in fact, 9am to 5pm simply doesn’t work for everyone – lazy or not.

The point is somewhat moot anyway. Both millennials and Gen Z are showing clear indications that massive cultural shifts in our traditional understanding of the “workplace” are inevitable.

The next generation want portfolio careers and have little or no interest in the prospect of having a job for life.

A Google search for Uber reads more like the list of news reports on the shenanigans of a 1970s glam rock band than a major global company.

And ride-sharing services fit perfectly in a world where time is more valuable than it has ever been. We are living in a culture where immediacy isn’t just taken for granted, it is manifesting itself through a total transformation of the economic and social landscape. This is positive. People simultaneously demand greater availability and value for money. And they’re getting it, wherever reasonably tethered competition is allowed to grow.

“Get off your soapbox Holden!” I hear no one type. “The gig economy is slavery 2.0” and other such ill-informed catch phrases. It’s not surprising I’m in the minority on this one, given all the juicy stories emerging from some of the biggest players in the industry. A Google search for Uber reads more like the list of news reports on the shenanigans of a 1970s glam rock band than a major global company.

Tech companies formed in the 1990s or early 2000s used to be seen as bastions of progressive policies, drivers of greater equality and just generally having a more healthy cultural and social environment than enterprises founded by their predecessors among the baby boomer generation.

The income security provided by the gig economy, coupled with the flexibility underpinning it, make the sector an invaluable money spinner for people who need to be available last minute

Now we see AirBnB being associated with the refusal of a handful of hosts to accommodate certain guests based on their own individual racial biases. Uber and Co does appear to have been led by a bunch of ignorant frat boys for the last few years. Tech’s squeaky clean reputation ain’t what it used to be.

Lets be clear: the companies that continue to monopolise key sectors of the gig economy may have their problems, but that doesn’t change the fact that they provide the means for people in a number of marginalised positions to generate extra income where there was no income before. And it is not just single parents, or people with disabilities; it’s also many middle class people in the US, including those who have been financially crippled by exorbitant university education fees.

Demand for ride-sharing is almost static meaning those who want to work can do so whenever they feel like it and clock out whenever and wherever they’ve had enough. They say here in Austin, Texas that there’d be no “live music capital of the world” reputation if it weren’t for the large community of musicians being able to make ends meet through picking up a few ride shares every week. They’re certainly not earning much from their art, because recorded music no longer holds any value.

The same goes for those working in virtually every artistic sector. They know they have chosen a career path with low success rates but potentially big rewards. The income security provided by the gig economy, coupled with the flexibility underpinning it, make the sector an invaluable money spinner for people who need to be available last minute for gigs, auditions, performances etc.

Any untoward practices by companies currently dominating one sector or another – be it ride-sharing, residential accommodation or delivery services – will continue for as long as there isn’t ample competition in each market to prevent those unfair practices – such as bargain basement wages etc that improve profit margins for those at the top while making life harder for those at the bottom.

Corporations are not inherently evil. They are no less (or more) immoral than individuals or governments. All do bad stuff and continue to do bad stuff until they are either coerced into doing otherwise or when it becomes unprofitable to continue, whichever comes first.

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