Tag: gig economy

The endless Black Friday of the soul

This article by Ruth Whippman appears in the New York Times, so focuses on the US, but the main thrust is applicable on a global scale:

When we think “gig economy,” we tend to picture an Uber driver or a TaskRabbit tasker rather than a lawyer or a doctor, but in reality, this scrappy economic model — grubbing around for work, all big dreams and bad health insurance — will soon catch up with the bulk of America’s middle class.

Apparently, 94% of the jobs created in the last decade are freelancer or contract positions. That’s the trajectory we’re on.

Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project. Share my blog post, buy my book, click on my link, follow me on Instagram, visit my Etsy shop, donate to my Kickstarter, crowdfund my heart surgery. It’s as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul.

[…]

Kudos to whichever neoliberal masterminds came up with this system. They sell this infinitely seductive torture to us as “flexible working” or “being the C.E.O. of You!” and we jump at it, salivating, because on its best days, the freelance life really can be all of that.

I don’t think this is a neoliberal conspiracy, it’s just the logic of capitalism seeping into every area of society. As we all jockey for position in the new-ish landscape of social media, everything becomes mediated by the market.

What I think’s missing from this piece, though, is a longer-term trend towards working less. We seem to be endlessly concerned about how the nature of work is changing rather than the huge opportunities for us to do more than waste away in bullshit jobs.

I’ve been advising anyone who’ll listen over the last few years that reducing the number of days you work has a greater impact on your happiness than earning more money. Once you reach a reasonable salary, there’s diminishing returns in any case.

Source: The New York Times (via Dense Discovery)

Airbnb wants to give out shares to its superhosts

Note: I’m testing shorter, more to-the-point updates, alongside the regular ones. Let me know what you think in the comments!


Airbnb sent a letter to the SEC asking for the regulator to permit offering equity to hosts. Airbnb primarily supported changes to Securities Act Rule 701 that would allow offering shares to gig economy workers, not just investors and staff. CEO Brian Chesky characterized it as vital to rewarding the company’s supporters.

[…]

This isn’t the first time a gig-oriented online service has petitioned the SEC. Uber met with the Commission more than once to ask about the possibility. Airbnb is pushing for a direct policy change, however, where Uber was more interested in how it could offer shares under the existing framework.

Source: Engadget

Dark kitchens, dark factories… is this the future of automation?

I missed this at the end of last year, perhaps because I live in a small town in the north of England rather than a bustling metropolis:

Welcome to the world of ‘dark kitchens’ – fully-equipped commercial kitchens like you’d find attached to a restaurant, except with no restaurant or even a takeaway counter. Also known as virtual kitchens, they are dedicated solely to meeting the ever-growing hunger for online delivery services, facilitated by the likes of third party delivery apps.

These kitchens are anything but dark at peak times such as Friday or Saturday night, as noodles, pizza, curries and much more exotic—and increasingly, healthy—fare is sizzled up on a made-to-order basis while drivers for food delivery platforms such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, Seamless, and Uber Eats wait outside.

Incredible and obvious at the same time.

Source: The Times

Problems with reputation in the gig economy

The solution to the problems we see with platform capitalism is, of course, platform co-operativism, also known as allowing these workers to own the businesses for which they work.

Many of these platforms don’t let workers have any control over their reputations. I don’t want to sugarcoat the problems of reputation for workers with traditional jobs, but in some ways reputation is much more punishing for platform workers. There have been many stories about Airbnb, Uber, and others removing workers from their platforms, with little to no notice or ability to correct problems. In fact, Uber drivers are required to maintain a certain rating in order to stay on the platform—a fact that few passengers know. Workers in most cases lack the ability to challenge the stain on their reputations, and sometimes they don’t even know why their reputations might have suffered. Platforms are highly dependent on customer ratings for policing the quality of their workforce, but they haven’t figured out how to correct for those same customers’ race and gender bias. It can feel to the worker like it’s “one strike and you’re out”—and that arbitrariness just adds to the instability of gig-work. In addition, reputation isn’t portable. If Uber drivers want to change platforms and start delivering packages for Instacart, they have to start from scratch to build up a good reputation on the new site—even though they are using skills that are valuable to both sites.

Source: WIRED