The Sharing Economy: Opportunities and Challenges
The rise of new information technology in the 21st century has enabled the rise of new markets including the rise of the sharing economy, which has opened up new avenues for jobs and careers. The Age of Sharing by Nicholas A. John details how network technologies has enabled the rise of the sharing economy, allowing individuals to monetize assets that previously would not be able to find a customer for. John offers a neoliberal perspective of how many view the sharing economy as “if you have any spare resources (including your time, that drill you are not using right now, your spare bedroom) and you are not monetizing them, then do not complain about being poor” (John 2016). From this perspective, the sharing economy enables the rise for everyone to become micro entrepreneurs and to profit off all their assets. This is powerful for some individuals to find more financial freedom by being able to work varying hours that are aligned with their availability and a possible lifestyle that may differ from the typical 9-5. And with the barrier of entry to a market becoming lower and lower, this can lead to increased competition in the market which ultimately should push and drive products to become more refined and better for the consumers to be willing to pay a premium price. However the sharing economy may offer the promise of getting rich easily, but the stark reality may be a lack of financial stability for many gig workers. Furthermore, a lack of control for these workers over their industry can lead to them having an algorithm as a boss, which can often be a black box without clear instructions for what to do to be able to grow in jobs and work. The sharing economy and the rise of micro entrepreneurs has empowered people to find customers for assets and services that previously were difficult to find an audience for and has also changed the length of typical career paths.
Unlocking Economic Potential: The Sharing Economy’s Impact on Communities and Careers
With the sharing economy, people are enabled to profit off sitting assets, like putting up rooms in your house on Airbnb for guests to stay in. this can lead to lower costs on the market compared to traditional services which may require an entire team to coordinate the service as “Airbnb could be seen as a way to redistribute the income influx brought by tourism to a whole community, beyond the professionals of the hotel industry” making it simple for locals to join the market (Mermet 2021). Previously these locals may not have had a way to make extra income from the effects of living in a thriving tourist town which allows Airbnb to empower individuals to capitalize on these assets. This can lead to a change in traditional jobs as the rise of side hustles may lead to many individuals following a different path than the traditional 9-5 career. The new jobforce is only possible with new network technologies which enable people to be connected with customers they previously would not be able to get in contact with. The global reach of technology enables people looking to make money off their assets to reach potential customers from all over the world. Additionally, user friendly designs are necessary to ensure technologies are easy to use for all users with educational barriers of entry. The middle party platform intermediating a transaction between host and consumer also builds trust in a relationship which previously may not have been possible. The trust is crucial to intermediate the relationship with consumers willing to pay a price for the trust compared to paying the host directly.
Navigating Instability and Exploitative Practices
The rise of the sharing economy and gig workers also leads to a lack of stability for many of these jobs and exploitative practices which may seem impossible to overcome with an algorithm as a boss. In Los Angeles, California, an uber driver named “Jordan said he filed a claim in small claims court against Uber for his permanent deactivation, but his case was dismissed because all Uber drivers have to sign terms and conditions before working for the company that stipulate Uber can deactivate drivers at any time” (Sainato 2023). The lack of clarity for a role can be a huge issue as there is no immediate boss to report to with gig jobs in the sharing economy. In a survey sent to drivers working for ridesourcing companies like Uber, “the level of transparency with which ride-hailing apps determine driver pay is the attribute with the lowest satisfaction score” as revealed in the survey (Fielbaum 2021). The promise of working flexible and your own hours was rated as the aspect of the job drivers enjoyed the most, allowing them freedom in work hours. However it was seen how many times the hours drivers work was determined by the wages for each hour, as drivers would still have to work specific hours to make the most money. This promise is seen to be a false one, as working different hours may lead to making less money and having less work.
The Sharing Economy’s Promise and Pitfalls in the 21st Century
In conclusion, the 21st century has witnessed the transformative rise of new information technology, paving the way for the emergence of novel markets such as the sharing economy. Nicholas A. John’s “The Age of Sharing” underscores how network technologies have been instrumental in facilitating the sharing economy, enabling individuals to monetize underutilized assets that were previously challenging to find customers for. From a neoliberal perspective, this economic paradigm empowers people to become micro-entrepreneurs, offering them the prospect of financial independence and the flexibility to work on their own terms. Moreover, it fosters competition, incentivizing market players to enhance the quality of their offerings to attract consumers. Nevertheless, beneath the promise of easy riches lies a stark reality for many gig workers in the sharing economy. Financial stability often remains elusive, with gig workers grappling with fluctuating incomes and a lack of control over their working conditions. The rise of algorithms as de facto employers introduces opacity and unpredictability into the equation, leaving workers in the dark about how to thrive in this new job landscape. The sharing economy’s profound impact is particularly evident in its ability to transform dormant assets into profit centers. Airbnb, for instance, enables hosts to monetize spare rooms, effectively reducing costs for travelers and redistributing income within local communities. This shift empowers individuals to pursue alternative career paths, departing from the conventional 9-to-5 grind. This paradigm shift in the job market is made possible by advanced network technologies that connect asset owners with potential customers worldwide. User-friendly designs facilitate access for individuals with varying levels of technological proficiency, while intermediary platforms enhance trust between hosts and consumers. However, the flip side of this coin reveals a darker reality for gig workers. Job instability and exploitative practices prevail in this gig-driven world, often exacerbated by an algorithmic decision-making process that lacks transparency and accountability. As demonstrated in cases like Jordan’s legal battle against Uber, the absence of a direct employer-employee relationship can leave workers vulnerable to arbitrary decisions by platform owners. Additionally, the promise of flexible hours can be illusory, as drivers often find themselves constrained by income considerations, undermining the very autonomy promised by the sharing economy. In essence, the rise of the sharing economy has reshaped the landscape of jobs and careers in the 21st century, offering new opportunities but also posing significant challenges. While it has democratized income generation and asset utilization, it has also highlighted the need for greater job security, transparency, and workers’ rights in this evolving economic paradigm. As technology continues to advance, it is crucial to strike a balance that maximizes the benefits of the sharing economy while mitigating its negative repercussions, ultimately fostering a more equitable and stable job market for all.
Anne-Cécile Mermet (2021) Who Is Benefiting from Airbnb? Assessing the Redistributive Power of Peer-to-Peer Short-Term Rentals, The Professional Geographer, 73:3, 553-566, DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2021.1906921
Fielbaum, Andres. (2021). The sharing economy and the job market: the case of ride-hailing drivers in Chile. Transportation. 48. 10.1007/s11116-020-10127-7.
John, Nicholas A.. The Age of Sharing, Polity Press, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/usyd/detail.action?docID=4770940.Saint, M. (2023, March 10). “it was traumatic”: Uber, lyft drivers decry low pay and unfair deactivations. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/mar/10/uber-lyft-driver-suspension-deactivation-pay