Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to The Gig Economy; picking a winner was not easy, however in the end, we selected Rita O’Connell’s post:
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.
We asked Rita what inspired her, she wrote:
I’ve actually been a beneficiary of the have it your way promises of the gig economy on and off in my career. However, during my graduate studies at the National University of Ireland Galway this past year, under the guidance of Cian McMahon I began looking more closely at the likely long term economic impacts of the gig model, thanks in part to works like Guy Standing’s The Precariat, and some excellent research the folks at Pew released in late 2016 (http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/17/gig-work-online-selling-and-home-sharing/) — it’s especially telling that the gig economy is obviously not just the brightly-sold “side hustle” allowing young people to pursue creative entrepreneurial efforts with more freedom, but is proving to be yet another social and economic trap for members of our already-vulnerable low-income communities. I now strongly believe we need to be shining a stronger light on the exploitative nature of the gig economy and insisting on new types of worker protections for independent workers if we’re going to slow our headlong rush towards a massive social disaster as this model systematically erodes the social safety nets previous generations fought for (and rely on).