Why The On-Demand Economy Will Continue To Rise

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“The rapid growth of on-demand platforms and marketplaces will continue their meteoric rise, fueled by changing work patterns, the expectations and attitudes of Millennials toward work and the ubiquity of connectivity,” says Mary Meeker, current partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), in her hefty Internet Trends 2015 report. The former Morgan Stanley Internet Analyst devotes a significant share of her 196-page report to explaining the rise of the on-demand economy, the shifting nature of work, expectations of work, and the need for laws to evolve and adapt to this unstoppable trend.

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While the report makes for fascinating reading, we’ve picked out the relevant parts regarding the on-demand economy. Here’s how the on-demand economy is shaping up and why Meeker expects its rise to continue:

The Nature of Work Has Changed & People Have Changed

Meeker notes that the nature of work has irrevocably changed in America, where 34 percent of the US workforce — or 53 million people — are freelancers. Some of this growth has come as a result of the workplace itself restructuring – loss of goods producing jobs, the rise of knowledge-based jobs, and the decline of employer-sponsored health and retirement plans. After the 2007 recession, jobs have been difficult to find and hold, especially for Millennials (15-35 years old), whose expectations of work are being reshaped as the work environment itself evolves.

Millennials, who are now the largest generation in the current workforce (35%), have very different expectations of work compared to previous generations. These expectations are helping drive the rise of freelancing even higher. Flexibility is their second most valued work benefit (19%), just behind job development and training (22%). Millennials are also the largest cohort of on-demand workers, making up 44% of the total, compared to 32% of 35-49 year olds.

Connectivity & Willing Workforce = On Demand

Connectivity is changing – the combination of mobiles, sensors and humans — has made it possible to provide products and services on a near-instant basis. Smartphone penetration is 64% in the US, compared to 18% in 2009. Millennials are attached to their smartphones; 87% report their smartphone “never leaves their side, night or day,” and 80% said it was the first thing they reach for when they wake up. The rise of on-demand platforms has allowed people to earn income and work on what they perceive to be their own terms.

On-Demand Platforms Benefit Consumers. Opportunities for Workers, But Also Challenges

Consumers like on-demand platforms as evidenced by continuing strong growth. They like the convenience, choice, and lower prices. For the most part, social media ratings seem to allow them to trust providers. There are a few trade-offs: the inability to test products, the reliance on peers to leave helpful feedback, and paying more for instant gratification. As on demand continues to rise there are opportunities for workers – flexibility, financial rewards, possible growth, access to larger even global marketplaces, and the relative ease of matching skills to the right job. The challenges are a lack of predictable income, the uncertainty of freelance life, non-existent benefits, investment into own assets, limited training and job development (inability to move on to bigger responsibilities), and non-existent workplace culture.

Policies and Laws Evolving, But Social Feedback a Powerful Consumer Protection Tool

Meeker sees policies and laws evolving — especially as we’re still in the “early innings” of the on-demand economy. There is a need for workers, businesses, and governments to work together to shape the direction of policies and laws regulating these new marketplaces. Meeker sites ticket resale site Starhub as a good example of how a new platform can help alter outdated laws and benefit the entire marketplace. She adds that while consumers must place their trust in others, the impact of social media should not be underestimated. Its system of feedback and ratings allow empowered customers to take elements of consumer protection into their own hands.

For a full copy of the report: www.kpcb.com/internet-trends

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