Lovely comment from the inestimable Dave Pell:
It’s long been described as the sharing economy. But, of course, there is little real sharing going on. The gig economy is just another way to pay people to give you a ride or rent you a room or bring you a meal. Even if the sharing economy is really the on-demand economy, does it represent a new, more worker-friendly, more altruistic version of the working life? The New Yorker’s Nathan Heller wonders: Is The Gig Economy Working? “The American workplace is both a seat of national identity and a site of chronic upheaval and shame. The industry that drove America’s rise in the nineteenth century was often inhumane. The twentieth-century corrective—a corporate workplace of rules, hierarchies, collective bargaining, triplicate forms—brought its own unfairnesses. Gigging reflects the endlessly personalizable values of our own era, but its social effects, untried by time, remain uncertain.” In a perfect version of the sharing economy, I would summarize Heller’s findings and deliver them to you in easily digestable, bite-sized chunks. But once you see the rates I charge, I have a feeling you’ll want to try Task Rabbit.
Jia Tolentino has a very good piece in the New Yorker about the ideology that underpins the gig economy. The piece opens with the story of Mary, a Lyft driver in Chicago who kept accepting rides even though she was nine months pregnant – and even kept going when her contractions began!
In the end, it ended well. Mary had a customer who only needed a short ride, so she was able to drive herself to hospital after dropping him off. Once there, she gave birth to a baby girl — who appears on the company blog wearing a “Little Miss Lyft” onesie.
The point of the company blog post is to laud the spirit of workers like Mary. But, writes Tolentino,
It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news. Fiverr, an online freelance marketplace that promotes itself as being for “the lean entrepreneur”—as its name suggests, services advertised on Fiverr can be purchased for as low as five dollars—recently attracted ire for an ad campaign called “In Doers We Trust.” One ad, prominently displayed on some New York City subway cars, features a woman staring at the camera with a look of blank determination. “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the ad proclaims. “You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”
Quite so. Lyft drivers in Chicago earn about $11 per trip.
Perhaps, as Lyft suggests, Mary kept accepting riders while experiencing contractions because “she was still a week away from her due date,” or “she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet.” Or maybe Mary kept accepting riders because the gig economy has further normalized the circumstances in which earning an extra eleven dollars can feel more important than seeking out the urgent medical care that these quasi-employers do not sponsor. In the other version of Mary’s story, she’s an unprotected worker in precarious circumstances.
This morning’s Observer column:
The big news last week was that Uber, the California-based ride-hailing company, threw in the towel in China. It announced that its Chinese rival, Didi Chuxing, would acquire all of the assets of UberChina – including its brand, business operations and data. In return, Uber gets a stake in Didi Chuxing worth £5.3bn.
Why is this significant? How long have you got?
A poll by Time says 44 percent of U.S. adults who are Internet users have participated in it, and 22 percent have offered goods or services.
- 22 percent of U.S. adults have participated in ride-sharing (or ride-booking), with 10 percent driving for Uber, Lyft or Sidecar (which is getting out of the business).
- 19 percent have been involved with services such as Airbnb, with 10 percent opening up their homes to host strangers.
- 17 percent have participated in the service economy, using platforms such as TaskRabbit, and 11 percent have provided services.
- 14 percent have participated in the car-sharing economy, using Zipcar and similar services.
- 11 percent have participated in the food and goods-delivery economy, using Instacart, Caviar or PostMates.
The survey, which polled 3,000 people in late November, also found that 61 percent of the drivers/deliverers/errand-runners are male, 55 percent are members of a racial/ethnic minority, 51 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 41 percent live in an urban area.
This from Uber:
Marvin and Ara just made our day. Their £5 London uberX ride together on Christmas Eve from London Fields, Hackney to Hoxton in Ara’s blue Honda Insight Hybrid was the billionth Uber trip.
One billion. That’s a whole lot of riders and drivers sharing the road, special moments, and celebrations together. Certainly far more than we ever imagined when we got started in San Francisco five and a half years ago.
This holiday season, we’re feeling grateful and festive crossing this milestone as we close out the year. For riding their way into our history books, we’re putting one year’s worth of free rides in rider Marvin’s stocking and our driver-partner Ara will be taking a vacation on us to the Uber city of his choice.
To celebrate the community where this special trip took place, we are also making a donation to Hackney Pirates—a charity serving the neighborhood where the billionth trip started. Hackney Pirates develops the literacy, confidence, and perseverance of young people aged 9-12 across the borough of Hackney, so that they are set up for success both in school and beyond.
The concierge economy is up and running.