Mendeley Brainstorm – The Gig Economy: Potent or Precarious?

The gig economy has made services cheaper and more convenient; but is there a downside?

The “gig economy” is a fact of life. To “Uber” has become a verb. Airbnb is ubiquitous. People sell their skills in short term engagements via freelancing websites. This has opened up a world of low-cost services; however, is the gig economy’s destruction of secure employment worth it? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes July 12, 2017.

A New Economy

People used to “take a taxi” or “get a cab”, now they just as readily “Uber” to wherever they want to go. This shift in language is indicative of a broader change in the economy: with Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and other services, people are becoming accustomed to ordering services online from contracted individuals who are “paid by the gig”.

The Upsides

Anyone who has had trouble getting a cab in the middle of a crowded city can appreciate the convenience and low cost of utilising Uber. Airbnb offers real experiences of living in a location rather than a sanitised venue. Being able to hire a freelancer to do everything from design birthday cards to editing manuscripts is extremely convenient and much cheaper than it once was.

The Downsides

Employment in the gig economy is precarious and not necessarily well paid. Furthermore, secure professions like taxi driver and employment in hotels is under threat. Competing in a world, online marketplace tends to favour lower cost providers.

The Future?

Is the Gig Economy just a fact of life? Or can we make changes to lessen its downsides? What is your view? Tell us!

About Mendeley Brainstorms

Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research.  We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.

9 thoughts on “Mendeley Brainstorm – The Gig Economy: Potent or Precarious?

  1. Imagine that you’re a professional writer in a precarious publishing climate where your craft has been redefined as “content production.” Imagine that rather than finding a stable paid position or a regular supply of small contract work, you are often compensated in “exposure,” even when writing for large, well-financed operations like The Huffington Post. Imagine that the best way to thrive in such an environment is to advertise your skills, by offering free samples on your personal website, on Twitter, or even in the comment section of a blog owned by a publishing behemoth that reported over £2.3 billion in revenue in 2016 alone. Imagine that this fortune was amassed through the privatization of academic research that is largely produced by scholars who are not paid for their writing, but who need publications to pad their CVs in a cutthroat labor market. Imagine that this company holds a contest, soliciting 150 words on this rotten system, while offering to compensate the winner with a $50 dollar Amazon gift card and a corporate swag bag. That’s the gig economy.

  2. The gig economy is the outcome of the sharing economy – more precisely the impact of digitization. The segment of academic research is a good example. Research institutions compete in open global markets where the idea is to provide more with less for the shareholders. In Finland this trend is already to bring about the rip-offs effect for academic researchers: Business lobby organizations took over the responsibility to bring in money for scientific research in line with the interests of companies, corporations. LUT Group is an example – the leading party in the board governing the company is the Confederation of Finnish Industries (1*, 2*). Many researchers have been fired and temporary work contract are these days the number one scenario at least for junior doctoral candidates. Professors might have longer contracts, some of them might have retained the status of civil servant. This is a trend of privatization & deregulation in the university sector of Finland in general (3*, 4*, 5*). The EU must take a tighter control of the system: fair competition and working rules must become of primary concern for the central governance in Brussels everywhere across the EU.
    References
    1* LUT – The University Board (2017): 5 members from outside the university, 4 members from inside the university. Available at: https://www.lut.fi/web/en/get-to-know-us/introducing-the-university/university-board
    2* Tuomo Rönkkö & Tuomas Telkkä (2017) “Saimaa University of Applied Sciences to become part of the LUT Group “, Citation: “Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and Saimaa University of Applied Sciences will deepen their cooperation with the purpose of establishing a corporate group, the LUT Group, as of 1 January 2018. ”
    3* Ellie Bothwell for Times Higher Education (2017). “Finland’s Brain Drain: after major budget cuts for universities, Ph.D.s are leaving the country.” Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/01/19/finlands-universities-fear-brain-drain-following-budget-cuts
    4* Välimaa Jussi. et al. (2014). “University Mergers in Finland: Mediating Global Competition”, Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Vol. 2014, Issue 168: “…Fairness and social justice were used as strong arguments to resist the concentration of resources to Finland’s metropolitan area and to just one university.” page 50, Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/he.20112/pdf
    5* Dr. Gareth Rice (2016). “A Finnish Lament”, Citation: “As the Finnish government’s cuts take effect, the staff employed in Finnish universities will only be made to feel more and more like slaves in a hyper-corporatized higher education system.” Helsinki Times Online, 29 January 2016. Available at: http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/columns/columns/viewpoint/13755-a-finnish-lament.html

    • Please provide an accurate e-mail address; the address supplied with your account does not work.

  3. I do believe “gig economy” is the natural evolution of the overpopulated cities in developed and/or developing countries. It is rather similar to Darwinism of species/types/professions – however you want to call that. The stronger more consumer driven types take over the ones that fail or are not fast enough to evolve – it’s both good and bad.

  4. From the perspective of the dominant companies behind the rise of the gig economy, the prevailing designation of the gig workforce is not one of precarity, but rather of individuals who are “entrepreneurial” and “independent” – craving economic freedom, desiring control of their own work and lives. These companies will tell you that the advantages of flexibility and freedom far outweigh the sacrifices of having no “traditional” job security. However: we now know that the vast majority of people participating in the gig economy are working multiple jobs, for more than forty hours a week, at or below minimum wage, without any of the protections that accompany standard employment. Where, then, their freedom? The fact that this economic model has been promulgated largely by massive multinational companies who are seeing enormous valuations and unprecedented profits and growth on the global market – on the backs of an underpaid, undersupported, anxious workforce – points to the need to closely consider cui bono, and demand fairer treatment for the gig workforce before it’s too late.

  5. Reblogged this on Strategy and commented:
    … a rethinking of corporate models since the Great Recession has led to a more agile lean way of doing business that abandons the “corporate monolith” model once again makes small-time entrepreneurship a realistic career alternative to the nearly-obsolete ideal of getting a job at a big company, staying for 30 years to retire with a pension and gold watch. Those types of jobs may be increasingly unavailable, but there are many more small businesses, entrepreneurs and SOHO companies in peoples’ garages that are filling the gap. This is what we call the “dotcloud.”
    Trucking industry is best sample for deregulated industries, …

  6. People who provide the labour for the ‘gig economy’ are being exploited. They want the flexibility to work a small number of hours when it is convenient for them. Fair enough. But they are accepting pay rates well below that required to sustain full time employment in their profession. They do not understand the full economic cost of providing the service, personal development, tax returns, sick leave, holiday. In the long term it is not sustainable but when the bubble bursts there will be few people trained to provide the service and costs will rocket.

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