Claire Marshall on the Gig Economy

Sharing Economy Sensei Claire Marshall has a nice piece in Huffington Post this week, “Why The Gig Economy Is Like A Bad Boyfriend”.

Marshall is notable for her sharing economy experiment, during which she lived for a month in London soley within “the sharing economy”, and her subsequent ebook. (Her current experiment is sharing+motherhood.)

I pay a lot of attention to what Sensei Marshall says about these things, and you probably should, too.

In the HuffPo piece, she is eager to separate out the real “sharing economy” (e.g., see her book) from corporate skunks who abuse the term, such as Uber. As she says, “there is not really a lot of sharing going on”. Uber et al are really doing the “Gig Economy”. (I have said the same thing.) The point is, don’t reject Marshall-style “sharing economy”, when you really mean to object to Uber-style gig economy.

Marshall makes the case with her “bad boyfriend” analogy.  The “Gig Economy” is like a bad boyfriend because…

“It makes you think you’d better wear heels for dinner, but then takes you to McDonalds.”

“It expects you to always be waiting by the phone.”

And so on.

She concludes that, “just like dating, you will have good experiences and bad experiences in the gig economy and while the bad ones may sting they make you smarter for next time.

The “smarter” behavior includes being choosy, valuing yourself, and paying careful attention to the fine print.  This is good advice for almost everything you do.

Marshall’s little piece is a great analogy, and it really made me think. I realized that the Sensei didn’t follow her own analogy to one very clear logical implication:

It (the “Gig Economy”) isn’t interested in a relationship with you.

This has to be the worst kind of boyfriend of all!

If he was serious about you, he’d want get hitched (i.e., he’d hire you as a permanent employee.)  But he doesn’t and won’t.

No matter how successful you are in your gigs, you aren’t building a career or a solid life together, and you probably aren’t growing or learning. Furthermore, neither of you is creating any kind of family or community feeling. It’s nothing personal, it’s just a gig.

This lack of mutual commitment may be the worst thing about the gig economy, long term. It’s demoralizing, it’s socially destructive, and it will almost certainly be horrible for workers who are dumped in favor of a younger replacement.

Just say “no” to the gig economy. And say “yes” to a Marshall-style sharing economy.

Dump the bum.

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