Sharing economy, gig economy, on-demand economy: no matter what you want to call it, crowdsourcing and sharing are here to stay. Time Magazine conducted a poll to determine the size and makeup of this new economy, and discovered some interesting numbers. When it comes to most services in the on-demand economy, there are more users than service offerers; in other words, for a company like Uber, there are more passengers than drivers. In America alone, there are a combined 90 millions users and offerers using these sharing economy platforms. Ridesharing boasts the biggest percentage of users, ahead of lodging services, like AirBnB. Most offerers are urban-based, minority, males, between the ages of 18-34. Offerers say they’re better off financially now working for gig economy companies. And most offerers love working in the gig economy, but agree that the sharing industry is exploitative due to lack of regulation. Nevertheless, offerers are conflicted on whether there should be governmental regulation of companies in the on-demand economy.
Below are more of good sides and downsides of the on-demand economy that the poll revealed:
Share Economy: The Good Sides
Freedom and Work Flexibility
The freedom that the gig economy provides for workers is cited as its most attractive element. Whereas traditional employment means having a set schedule with set hours and maybe even a corporate dress code, the on-demand economy means that people who work in it will not be bound by the trappings of traditional work schedules, unless they choose to be. So for people with multiple jobs, actors or artists, stay-at-home mothers, or anyone else who requires or prefers a flexible schedule to be able to fit other work or responsibilities into their days, the on-demand economy offers the freedom to build their work days as they desire.
Earning a Good Income
Many service offerers told Time they love that within the gig economy, they have the ability to earn a good living. One-third of independent contractors said that the gig economy represents more than 40% of their income and about half of contractors feel they are or will be better off financially in the coming year thanks to the gig economy. On various share economy platforms, members of the crowd may have the option to set their own rates and decide how much or how little money they’d like to earn based on what gigs they accept or how many hours they work.
Gig Economy: The Downsides
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
Self-employed, independent contractor, freelancer, employee: it’s difficult for people to decide what to call service offerers in the gig economy. But the distinction is important to think about for legal and political reasons. According to Uber, they have never employed any drivers and merely provide a platform for independent contractor drivers and passengers to connect. However, some think Uber is an employer in everything but name. Terms aside, many members of the crowd community value feeling like they are self-employed, rather than employees.
No Employment Protections
Deciding on the distinction between titles for gig economy offerers would mean these companies have liability and responsibility toward the users on their platforms to give them the same protections they’d give employees. Many companies keep their costs low because they don’t have to pay salaries or insurance for the independent contractors who use their sites. This definitely makes sense for casual offerers. But for every person who only offers their house on AirBnB every once in awhile, there are others who rent out their property for profit on a regular basis and use it as a source of regular income rather than the occasional bit of extra money. For “motivated offerers” as Time calls people who earn their primary income from the on-demand economy, it’s understandable why some offerers and users want politicians to pass labor laws to “protect” offerers. And yet to complicate things further, there’s an almost equal split amongst offerers when it comes to governmental regulations, with 47% in favor and 49% opposing regulation. So even though the sharing economy is here to stay, the politics of the on-demand economy are still being shaped.