Now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, let’s take a deep dive into one of the more fascinating facets of the gig economy; can you really count on any of these jobs long term?
What makes this more interesting (and difficult) than analyzing the traditional economy is the rapidity at which it changes. I’m going to look at a case study of UBER and then I’ll use that to come back and make some assessments of the gig economy as a whole.
UBER. Always UBER.
UBER. The biggest and most well known of the gig economy companies. You’d think if there was any stabilizing force in the gig economy, it would be them, but they are constantly evolving as is every company of its ilk.
Let’s say you heard about UBER a few years ago, and decided that you’d like to make at least a portion of your income from driving for them. Assuming you are competent at your job, you figure it’s a job you could do for years, if not decades. Unfortunately, it’s a mistake to assume anything when it comes to the gig economy. Just last week, UBER debuted driverless cars in San Francisco.
It was a less than stellar launch, however, as one driverless car was caught running a red light, and they had issues with the DMV. So if you see a robot in front of you in line at the DMV, he’s probably getting his driver’s license so he can drive for UBER. Jokes aside, this example helps show how you can never count on anything in the gig economy. While driving a car seems like the most natural, long lasting job you could have, the threat of driverless cars makes even a job like that look like it could be on the way out.
Like almost all companies, UBER’s goal is to make a profit. They have made millions by eliminating the middleman that is the cab dispatcher, so what makes you think they won’t eliminate the driver if they can? Simple answer: They absolutely will. So while technology can help you get a job, it can just as easily taketh away.
No accrued loyalty in the gig economy
In fact, gig economy companies are far more likely to take your job away than traditional brick and mortar companies. If you are the CEO of Ford and you want to make job cuts, there’e a lot to consider. Bad will in the community, a decline in company morale, severance packages, etc. Traditional companies have employers who have worked for them for years, decades, and sometimes their whole working life, so you can understand the hesitation they have in laying someone off or firing them outright.
A company like UBER has no such ties. First and foremost, the people who work for them are independent contractors, and are not technically employees. So of course they won’t have the same guilt in firing someone who doesn’t even technically work for them. Also, there is no camaraderie amongst employees. Working in the gig economy is generally a very individualistic endeavor, and you aren’t working with others. So if UBER decides that half of their fleet will now be driverless cars, they don’t have the same misgivings that a more traditional company would. There will be no “Bob from accounting was such a good guy” stories if people lose their jobs with UBER.
You can already see where technology could effect other jobs in a similar way. Imagine you take a job delivering for postmates. Would you place your hard earned money that job will still be around in five years? I know I wouldn’t. Driverless cars could take over that gig as well, and Amazon has already started working with drones. If I’m a delivery guy for Amazon, I can already see the writing on the wall.
Not all gig economy jobs are at the behest of technology however. If you own a nice property and rent it out on Airbnb, that’s always going to be desirable. Technology may change how you monetize it, but the worth will always be there. Nonetheless, jobs in the housing market are absolutely at risk with the rise of apps. Can you see a world where the need for a real estate agent has gone by the wayside? I know I can. An app that crunches all the numbers, supplemented by an app like Veryfier where an expert checks out the condition of the house? Hasta la Vista real estate agent.
This point is illustrated not to scare the real estate agents out there, but to show that even if you are not a part of the gig economy per se, it’s long reaching tentacles may influence your current job. It’s something to consider for sure.
The gig economy companies may seem like they are there for our benefit, but truthfully they are just like any other company; out to make a profit. The jobs within the gig economy will always be changing and you can’t rely on having the same job for years on end. Think about that the next time you try to unsuccessfully make small talk with your driverless UBER. Actually, that’s a bad example. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence, they may just talk back to you.
In next week’s article, I’m going to check out the shrinking middle class, and how the gig economy is going to effect that. I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t bode well. The influx of apps that cut out the middleman, may leave us with a high majority of haves vs. have nots.
See you back here next Wednesday.
90% Responsible Writer. 25% Juvenile Delinquent.
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