Around the economic recession of 2008 as so many lost their jobs and were faced with financial hardships and difficult decisions, an alternative economic model emerged. It didn’t really have a name at the time, but in the years since then we’ve come to know it as the “sharing economy.”
At the time, this idea touted the notion that technology could solve common work problems and create a more democratic structure from worker to worker. Now in 2020, we know these companies that emerged back then — giants like Uber, AirBnB and Lyft — have become quite controversial for their predatory behavior and exploitation of workers. Jake Neher speaks with an expert and author who knows a lot about this subject and explores where it all went wrong, and if there’s any hope to improve the current system.
Listen: The origins of the gig economy and how it got off track.
Juliet Schor, is an economist, sociologist and author of “After The Gig: How The Sharing Economy Got Hijacked And How To Win It Back.” She also teaches at Boston College and co-chairs the board of directors of the Better Future Project.
“A lot of the people who got involved [in the sharing economy] thought it was going to solve the climate crisis…if you have Airbnb you don’t have to build hotels…of course that’s not what happened,” notes Schor while discussing the economic and cultural backdrop that made way for the rise of the sharing economy.
In discussing the point at which the sharing economy became the gig economy and took a dark turn, Schor says “companies took a lot of money from investors and that leads to incredible pressures for growth.” One bright spot, however, is that much of the digital gig work uses technology that is “pretty easy to create,” explains Schor, who goes on to say that in other parts of the world like Brazil and Europe, there is “opportunity for the workers to now own the platform, and get virtually all the value of what they are producing.”