Mendeley Brainstorm – The Gig Economy – We Have a Winner!

A word of services provided by the gig economy is just an app away. But are there problems with this convenience?

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).

Those who didn’t win this time are encouraged to respond to the last ever Mendeley Brainstorm, regarding Quantum Computing. Thanks again to all our participants.

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.