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Uber, Airbnb and the New Gig Economy

Originally posted on

Blue collar workers are finally getting in on the new gig economy.

In 2017 things aren’t what they used to be. Major institutions and the minutiae of modern life — the latter of which includes ordering food delivery, getting around town and even dating — have seen a major facelift since the turn-of-the-century tech boom. Workers worldwide (including 24 percent of Americans in the past year alone) have adapted to the prevalence of money-making opportunities that are specifically internet- or app-based, creating a substantial pool of industry-specific talent that are ready to put their skills to use.

The advent of the sharing economy

The sharing economy, often referred to as the peer economy, allows people to benefit from the services offered to them via online platforms and/or to provide their own offerings to be purchased or rented from the online marketplace. Consumers benefit from the ease of use, affordable rates and access to peer reviews. The giggers benefit from the access to a huge audience and a steady flow of side cash.

The sharing economy has democratized markets and industries largely controlled by large corporate interests, allowing disruptive companies such as Airbnb, Uber and Lyft to shake things up and provide needed services at decent rates as well as opportunities for workers to take on new projects. Due to its emphasis on peer-to-peer transactions, trust and communalism are strongly emphasized and championed in the sharing economy, as Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia explained in a 2016 TED talk.

Evolution of the gig economy

The “on-demand” gig economy has followed in the footsteps of the original sharing economy, providing opportunities for industry-specific workers to find tasks suitable to their schedules, abilities and other needs. Such sites as Fiverr and are favored by freelance professionals and companies in need of good work with a fast turnover rate across a range of fields, including, but not limited to digital marketing, graphic design, coding and more.

However, a new subset of the gig economy tapping into the blue-collar sector has emerged in recent years, allowing the likes of hospitality professionals and manual laborers to get in on the game. After all, you need to rent or own a home to monetize on Airbnb; you need a car to be an Uber or Lyft driver; and you need specialized education and experience to be hired as a white-collar freelancer. Several companies have recognized the absence of blue-collar opportunities in this new digital economy, and have set up shop to provide services for consumers and gigs for workers.

Take London-based Xtras, which allows bartenders, wait staff, hosts, porters and promoters to view and choose daily job opportunities from each participating company's calendar of for-hire events on the app. The Xtras app works for staff and employers alike, allowing workers to find guaranteed jobs paying at least £8.5 per hour, while providing employers access to a wide pool of vetted employees.

There’s also Managed by Q, a Manhattan-based office-cleaning and maintenance company, that offers handyman work at the touch of a button. The workers, who are actual company employees rather than independent contractors, can earn up to $40 per hour in addition to receiving benefits like medical and dental insurance plus a 401(k). Also in New York is WashClub, a laundry and dry cleaning company that addresses all of the discerning modern consumer’s desires: pick-up and delivery, the use of eco-friendly products and quick turnaround. The company pays its workers 20 percent more than minimum wage plus commissions.

The transparency of blue-collar gig companies such as these encourages people to align with the company’s ethos and thus partake in that company’s initiatives, for consumers and workers alike.

As for the future

Trust and communalism are key to fostering a harmony that works for worker, company, and consumer alike. At these on-site jobs in the blue-collar gig economy, the worker naturally has a closer relationship with the employer, fostering a greater sense of community than is often felt with the bigger names dominating the sharing economy.

Overall, startups in the gig ecosystem are less controversial and disruptive than their household-name predecessors in the sharing economy since the former emphasizes a symbiotic relationship between the employee and employer. Their platforms centralize work opportunities instead of disrupting existing options for sourcing gigs (e.g. walk-ins, cold calls and emails), freeing the worker from the stress of finding gigs and thereby allowing him/her to focus on doing their best on the job or jobs they take on.


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