The “Gig Economy” and Airbnb: So Many Jobs, Too Little Time
Simultaneous to the rise of the share economy have been some major economic shifts. Employment has been altered by the Internet, a cultivator of tech-enabled industries that allow peer to peer money-making. Startups like Airbnb, which allow participants to generate a new source of income, can be considered “gig economy” employers. Through various means, the gig economy lets individuals make a living taking gigs instead of working the traditional 9 to 5 grind.
In an article on the topic published in the Guardian, the gig economy is used to explain why we’re experiencing a shift in employment from a time in which individuals worked one or two jobs in a lifetime, to six in a lifetime, to six at once in the future. It’s what it looks like when you sell crafts on Etsy, drive for Uber, rent rooms on Airbnb, and freelance write all at once — and it wouldn’t be possible without technology.
These jobs have in common that they “exploit spare capacity in assets or under-utilised skills and use the reach of technology to find an audience or a market,” Tim Adams writes. In many ways, it’s an explosion of small-scale entrepreneurship, another Guardian piece suggests. In a time when many young people are having difficulty entering the job market, and workers of all age experiencing wage stagnation, these types of gigs can augment incomes or amount to them entirely.
Already some people make entire livings off of Airbnb. But more commonly, Airbnb supplements the property owner’s income by turning unused space into extra money. This puts more money into the pockets of homeowners that can be spent, if not on the essentials, on entertainment, shopping, and more — this spending, in turn, stimulates the economy.
Because when you use Airbnb, you aren’t actually renting space from Airbnb. The platform is simply connecting you with individuals that you can rent space from. In this way, the startups and businesses that comprise the share economy are facilitators of community commerce, a network that builds up trust within instead of encouraging dependency on the top of the chain.
Some say that the gig economy is a new type of freedom, embraced increasingly by younger generations keen on rejecting the status quo. Where older generations took pride and comfort in salaried jobs, and many still do, the downsides of traditional work are clearer than ever as the world moves toward automation and other obstacles. Given that for many workers, a job is more of a survival vehicle than a passion, the gig economy is a seductive and flexible alternative.
Seductions aside, the gig economy comes with concerns. Right now, these gigs offer little security or consistency to workers that need a reliable income and benefits. Eschewing the 9-5 could also mean longer hours for lower wages, resulting in more anxiety among gig-jugglers.
It seems clear that the face of traditional employment is changing, and that the share economy, as exemplified by Airbnb, will play a part in defining jobs of the future. The question is, how? And for industry insiders, what can we do to make it net positive? It will be up to workers and those shaping the industry to ensure the outcome is as beneficial as can be.
Photo: Jeremy Lim via Flickr.