Indeed, the novelty of these models has convinced some commentators and policy-makers that freelancing over digital platforms might be something of a panacea to depressed and stagnating economies and a portfolio of such interests might even represent the future of work. So far, they are probably less economically consequential than the hype allows, but as BlaBlaCar shows, zero-marginal-cost ideas can grow exponentially very quickly. Even so, if this patchwork of employment and shared services represents the future, what will that future look like? It certainly will not involve salaried careers from hierarchical employers. It may well include low wages and weak collective-bargaining rights. But it might also be an opportunity and perhaps a necessity.


When randomuser and I were in France, we were talking (aka getting absolutely obliterated) with two guys who were about our age. They both had jobs / careers and couldn't imagine ever having another job. They will work that job, make their way up the career ladder, and are 100% happy.

They couldn't imagine why we would voluntarily hop between jobs or talk about our jobs with such distain, etc. They have insane job security, an insane amount of vacation time, very decent wages, and could want nothing else.

When we started talking about "entry-level" jobs / careers and the differences between 26 y/os in the US vs France it became apparent. One guy was much more fluent in English and ended up having to translate us to the other guy because he thought there had been something lost in translation when we talked about vacation days, the amount of hours, salaries, etc. There was nothing lost in the translation. I actually got a video of his reaction: He is saying "sérieux" over and over again. "Serious? Seriously?" The look on his face is amazing.

I, and most of my fellow friends who graduated college is 2010-2012, don't have that. Job security is a thing of the past, and being satisfied with the shitty economy and wages and healthcare and hours is nearly impossible. (Note: also, we're fucked in the head and aren't satisfied with anything, see below).

The gig economy is attractive to a lot of folks because working 4-5 years, 40+++ hours/week, making 50k/year (before taxes), when you don't have any job security or affiliation to the company you work for, is simply not attractive. The promise of big bucks delivered instantly is attractive. And that promise of instant gratification overrides the actual reality of the situation (that the gig economy is not actually financially better or going to pay off in the long run).

I have a lot of friends from high school who are still working in restaurants and still making more than us career-y folks. Granted, they are decent restaurants in an affluent part of town, but still. I can't imagine being a waitress my whole life, but when they are coming home with twice what I made, it's hard to sit behind a desk, especially when you don't see yourself there making decent money in 5 years. Some of those who went to college are choosing to continue working those waitress gigs because it pays off their student debt faster at this point than the entry level glorified internship will.

I also do not doubt for a second that our generation is seriously fucked in the head when it comes to how we perceive work / life and working our way up the career ladder. I could go on endlessly about possible causes for this but we were raised comfortably and therefore expect things that we perhaps shouldn't expect. The housing bubble and subsequent crash and subsequent bubbles, state of the healthcare system, and wages not keeping up with inflation only adds to this. The fact that we can blame the housing fuckary, political fuckary, healthcare fuckary. doesn't help either. If I thought that randomuser and I could buy a house by the time we were 30 on a "normal" job, would I be more satisfied and willing to sit my butt down in the office and work? I don't know, but I won't ever find out.

Regardless, we're fucked in the head and that compounded with technology and bazillion other things has led us to where we are today.

Listening to the guys in France talk reminded me of my parent's generation. We're not that generation though and the way the world operates, for better or worse, isn't going to match our parent's generation either.

Related to "Gen Y" / "Millennials":

I don't agree with everything in that post and it's easy to write off due to the overall tone of the piece, but there is some utter truth in there.

    Happiness = Reality - Expectations

    To be clear, GYPSYs want economic prosperity just like their parents did—they just also want to be fulfilled by their career in a way their parents didn’t think about as much.

    But something else is happening too. While the career goals of Gen Y as a whole have become much more particular and ambitious, Lucy has been given a second message throughout her childhood as well: YOU'RE SPECIAL

Lastly, the "gig / sharing" economy is brand spanking new. It's dodging regulations, dodging decent wages, but people don't 100% realize it yet. Uber drivers made a bunch of money....before they didn't. It took what, a year, to realize that an Uber driver isn't going to make you more money than that job at McDonalds will? The opinion most had 2 years ago about Uber as a consumer: It's cheaper than a taxi, it's higher end, it's easier to get, you guy a white guy who speaks English. My opinion today: It's not that much cheaper normally and its WAY more expensive sometimes (peak hours or holidays like Halloween) and the "classiness" of the car/driver is a huge gamble as you will probably get an ex-taxi driver.


Everything new is like this, by the way, it's not just Uber or "the sharing economy". Airlines are the same way. A new airline like Virgin America can start up and have new planes, awesome entertainment centers, wifi, outlets, superior experience, and rock bottom prices. But they don't have to deal with 100 years of history, maintenance, fees, pensions, legal issues, etc. Once they start having to deal with that, they're in the same exact boat as Delta except maybe a bit worse off because they don't have the experience to deal with it.

AirBNB is good now, but what happens when they have to deal with the same regulations and taxes and everything hotels do? I love AirBNB but their prices are going to be the same as hotels once they have the deal with the same shit hotels do. When their insurance company quadruples their rate due to a massive amount of payouts and regulations force them to change, they're no better off than the established system. When it becomes cheaper to do house checks for safety than paying out $10m 5 or 50 times a year, they're fucked. This sums it up nicely:

    Startups that redefine social and economic relations pop up in an instant. Lawsuits and regulations lag behind. While my family may be the first guests to speak out about a wrongful death at an Airbnb rental, it shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. Staying with a stranger or inviting one into your home is an inherently dicey proposition. Hotel rooms are standardized for safety, monitored by staff, and often quite expensive. Airbnb rentals, on the other hand, are unregulated, eclectic, and affordable, and the safety standards are only slowly materializing. But its general approach to safety is consistent with Silicon Valley’s “build it first, mend it later” philosophy.


Anyways, shit changes but don't think it's going to change that much in the long run. There are a reason regulations are in place and people don't grow up wanting to be a taxi driver.

posted 1468 days ago