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Gig Economy, Female Freelancers, Gender Inclusive Growth

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Gig Economy, Female Freelancers, Gender Inclusive Growth

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Documents the lived experiences of female returners with young families juggling online gig work with the messy and fleshy everyday activities of social reproduction, in ways that potentially disrupt (versus reinforce) stubborn gendered labour market inequalities.

Documents the lived experiences of female returners with young families juggling online gig work with the messy and fleshy everyday activities of social reproduction, in ways that potentially disrupt (versus reinforce) stubborn gendered labour market inequalities.

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Gig Economy, Female Freelancers, Gender Inclusive Growth

  1. 1. Digital Work-Lives and Gender Inclusive Growth in the ‘Sharing’ Economy (?) Al James al.james@ncl.ac.uk @Re_AlJames University of Southampton - 7 Feb 2018 Work/home boundaries in the Digital Economy
  2. 2. Sustaining Economies: Gendered Work- Life Conflict, Struggling with the Juggling  Shifting temporal and spatial boundaries between home and work  Negative experiences of ‘New Economy’: working longer, harder, to less predictable schedules, more unsocial hrs  Same time, increased female labour participation rates; household life more complex: e.g. more dual earner, lone-parent households  Neoliberal attack on social provisioning – transfer of care down to ‘natural’ level of home (Bakker and Gill 2003) where women assume majority burden of ‘messy and fleshy’ domestic life (Katz 2001)  Complex, multi-variable juggling act for which workers have finite time and energy • Lack of WLB: increased stress, negative effects on psychological and physical well-being, and increased family & marital tensions (many studies)
  3. 3.  Major causes of work-life conflict Highly variable workloads over product devt cycles Need for rapid response to client crises International work teams in multiple time zones Maintaining skill sets in dynamic IT sector  Everyday experiences of work life conflict interrupted sleep patterns stress and exhaustion regular evening and weekend working relationships with partner / children suffer working (at home) when feeling unwell missing out on leisure / hobbies checking email in hospital close to child birth  Particular pressures on women with children: identity of ‘a good mother’ invokes an everyday presence and involvement in childrearing absent from dominant societal expectations ‘a good father’ (see Hardhill and van Loon 2006) Documenting Everyday Work-Life Conflicts, High Tech Sector (Highly Gendered) 150 firms, 300 workers, 10 years of research, UK & Ireland
  4. 4. Policy Type Description Examples Flexible Work Arrangements Policies designed to give workers greater ‘flexibility’ in the scheduling and location of work hours while not decreasing average work hours per week Flextime (flexible beginning or end work time, sometimes with core hours) Flexplace / Telecommuting (all or part of the week occurs at home) Job sharing (one job undertaken by 2 or more persons) Annualised hours Reduced Work Hours Policies designed to reduce workers’ hours Part-time work Compressed work weeks (employees compact total working hours into 4 days rather than 5) Term-time working Practical Help with Child Care Policies designed to provide ‘workplace social support’ for parents Employer-subsidised childcare – in-site Employer-subsidised childcare – off-site Information service for childcare Workplace parent support group Breast-feeding facilities Personal Leave Policies and benefits that give leave to provide time for personal commitments & family caregiving Extra-statutory maternity leave Extra-statutory paternity leave Adoption leave Unpaid leave during school holidays Guaranteed Christmas leave Use of own sick leave to care for sick children Leave for caring for elder relatives Emergency leave Study leave Sports achievement leave So what can employers do to help?
  5. 5. Policy Type Description Examples Flexible Work Arrangements Policies designed to give workers greater ‘flexibility’ in the scheduling and location of work hours while not decreasing average work hours per week Flextime (flexible beginning or end work time, sometimes with core hours) Flexplace / Telecommuting (all or part of the week occurs at home) Job sharing (one job undertaken by 2 or more persons) Annualised hours Reduced Work Hours Policies designed to reduce workers’ hours Part-time work Compressed work weeks (employees compact total working hours into 4 days rather than 5) Term-time working Practical Help with Child Care Policies designed to provide ‘workplace social support’ for parents Employer-subsidised childcare – in-site Employer-subsidised childcare – off-site Information service for childcare Workplace parent support group Breast-feeding facilities Personal Leave Policies and benefits that give leave to provide time for personal commitments & family caregiving Extra-statutory maternity leave Extra-statutory paternity leave Adoption leave Unpaid leave during school holidays Guaranteed Christmas leave Use of own sick leave to care for sick children Leave for caring for elder relatives Emergency leave Study leave Sports achievement leave So what can employers do to help? BUT: Many employers remain unconvinced – highly sceptical of WLB ‘business case’ (administrative burden, unfair privileging select group, lack of supporting evidence) Limits to managerial ratification (formal vs informal WLB provision) Recessionary roll-back of WLB provision Workers voting with their feet: move to other firms (better WLB provision); quit the sector altogether; other women going freelance, use of online work platforms – in search of greater work autonomy, improved WLB, less stress, advancement
  6. 6. Enter the ‘Sharing Economy’ (chaotic conception) ‘What is innovative about today’s sharing is that it is a market form in which strangers—rather than kin and communities—exchange goods and services. This contemporary sharing economy creates new ways of provisioning goods and services … re-allocating wealth across the “value chain,” specifically away from “middlemen” and towards small producers and consumers. In 2011, Time magazine identified collaborative consumption as one of its 10 ideas that will change the world’. Schor and Fitzmaurice (2015: 4).  New disruptive economic model using internet platforms: access over ownership  ‘Sharing Economy’ / ‘Collaborative Commons’ / ‘Peer to Peer Economy’ / ‘Digital On Demand Economy’ / ‘Platform economy’ / ‘Gig Economy’ / ‘Connected Consumption’  Multiple circuits: semi-profit, pure profit, redistribution, sharing
  7. 7. Platform Work-Life Possibilities? ‘The dawn of a new humane era’ (Rifkin, 2014) ‘The optimally efficient state for promoting the general welfare and represents the ultimate triumph of capitalism’ (p. 10-11) Third Industrial Revolution – Internet reduces marginal cost of production almost to zero (eliminates virtually all middlemen mark up) From economy of scarcity to abundance Unbundling of production from employment Reduced social inequality Platforms: ‘Old paradigm of owners and workers, of sellers and consumers, is beginning to break down.’ (p. 160-1). New class of ‘prosumers’ Result: ‘a more humane and efficient capitalist market’ (p. 27). (other commentators more critical, e.g. Robert Reich ‘sharing the scraps’ economy)
  8. 8.  FORBES (2015) interview with founder and CEO of Moonlighting (Jeff Tennery):  “Mobile Optimized Mothers, or as we call them M.O.M’s, are fueling the new 1099 shared economy. Women are empowering themselves, choosing to work from home and earn a living on their terms. We’re very honored to help them on their mission to achieve that balance between career and life.”  ‘For professional women, the on-demand economy is already a godsend… to advance in their careers or at least stay in the game while being the kind of parents they want to be’ (Andreasson 2015:2). [!!!]  See also, Wosskow 2014, ILO 2016 Sickly-Sweet Celebrations of Female Work-Life Emancipation in the ‘Sharing Economy’
  9. 9. FOCUS: Making Visible Female Freelancer Work-Lives: On-Demand Work Platforms 1.Empowering, liberating effect on WLB c.f. demands of more formal office work environments? 2.Digital on-demand work disrupts / reinforces gendered distribution of productive and reproductive work? 3.‘Employer-provided WLB’ arrangements for platform workers? 4.Work-life experiences of being managed by algorithms rather than manager in the flesh? 19 interviews so far (Jan/Feb 2018, 18 women, majority mothers, 1 single father – PPH, Upwork, Copify, Fiverr, Taskrabbit, WorkEtc) – mix of full-time freelancers and platform top-ups (from highly paid, to low paid) – desk based communications, marketing, business devt, HR, office support, web, design, graphics Lack of analysis – despite women well represented in UK on- demand workforce (see Huws et al. 2016 survey, 52% UK platform workers)
  10. 10. 1. Better Juggling Platform Work, Home and Family? Absence of Employer Support? Greater ‘flexibility’ of work widely acknowledged – strong illness motivation Benefits of loss of commute Enabling discrete pockets of work fitted around care task rhythms (quilts) But: lack of line manager (none), employer WLB support (none), ‘it’s all on me’ – no paid sick leave / holiday leave / pension (‘1 hr child time = 1 hr lost income’) Major sources of work-life conflict: Excessive customer demands post acceptance (but need to tread carefully) Regular evening and weekend working Jackpot jobs demand instant proposals School holidays as major crunch point
  11. 11. 1. Crazy Quilts: Juggling Platform Work, Home and Family ‘My work is always set for the times when she’s already in the bed, so, … it happened to me twice, actually, that I was supposed to start have a Skype call set up with [client] for eight o’clock, and my daughter was just playing up. She didn’t want to go to sleep. My computer is downstairs. Her bedroom is upstairs. And I was stuck, like, what do I do? Do I go to the computer with the baby in my arms, and just say, “Okay, [client], I can do 15 minutes later”? So, that kind of situation, it does happen, it’s frustrating. But there is nothing you can do.’ (female freelancer, PPH, Jan 2018) ‘In the mornings I try not to work. I try and wait to maybe 9am just to set that precedent as well that I'm not available 24/7. So I do the nursery run, the school run and then on the days where I work from home… that allows me to do meetings, phone calls, catch ups. That's what a lot of my freelance work is. Then it's normally pick up, spend a couple of hours with my daughter and then it's normally a pocket of two or three hours in the evening, so from 7pm until 9pm, 7pm until 10pm where I really catch up and get things done that I couldn't do during normal working hours’. (female freelancer, PPH, Jan 2018)
  12. 12. Substantial service fees taken by platforms plus need to set competitive (lower!) international rates mean longer hours Variability of workflow (weekly, annual) promotes overwork (‘make hay while the sun shines’) – also need for extended family care networks Dec / Jan low coincides with expensive period – but top month becomes target Autonomy? Work-life challenges of algorithms and rankings: taking work offline vs. keeping work credits to be seen in algorithm search results; emails if underperform Aggressive bidding, then passing work on to other freelancers as coping mechanism 2. Work Autonomy vs Pressures of Overwork on Platforms ‘This is my income. This isn't a joke. This is me paying for my rent. This is me paying for food, paying for uniforms, things like that." I was like, "You cannot drop my ranking." How ridiculous is that, that I'm begging them not to drop my ranking. But I'm like, "You can't drop me out of the algorithm because people won't find me and I won't be able to get any work”’. (female freelancer, PPH, Jan 2018)
  13. 13. 3. Female Health and Safety in the ‘Gig Economy’: Maternity Leave, and Female Returners Lack of paid maternity leave support (weak: UK statutory only) Hiding pregnancy from clients Working close to due date (and much more so c.f. previous children when had formal employee status) Cutting maternity leave very short – multiple women Loss of clients from pre-leave Truncated and regressed career ladders (amplified in gig economy?) Wider pattern: 2017 study by GPDQ platform – mental health issues for freelance women and newborns – mothers working within crucial first 6 weeks (n=104) ‘So I started freelancing in 2006 which was when [son] was born, and I had [daughter] December of 2007. She was supposed to be a Christmas day baby, so I worked until probably the 24th of December, had [daughter], and then due to commitments, because at the time I was doing some freelance work for an organisation that had a yearly exhibition… and the exhibition was in March so technically I didn’t have any maternity leave [laughs]! I worked, basically, almost as soon as I had [daughter]. Because I’d made commitments to the organisation. It wasn’t so horrendous because she slept a lot, but it was very tiring’. (female freelancer, PPH, Jan 2018)
  14. 14. 3. Female Health and Safety in the ‘Gig Economy’: Inappropriate (Male) Buyer Behaviour ‘I actually had a customer last year, I was put off freelancing for a little while because of this. Often people don't want to communicate via PeoplePerHour. Often people want to do Skype meetings and phone calls and things like that. That does mean obviously an exchange of personal information. I had a customer that knew I got home from work at 5pm, would ring me at 5pm, I'd be on the phone to him for an hour, an hour and a half every evening. He knew I had a child. He'd always be calling and I wouldn't answer. Then I'd get emails straightaway, "Are you not interested? Shall we not pay you this month?" I found that very uncomfortable. Also, he was a man, he had my address because my invoices were there and I didn't feel safe. He also had my mobile number so I ended up having to block him on my mobile, block him on my landline. I had to block his texts on my phone as well. Then for some reason for a few days I was living in paranoia that he was going to send me a letter or he was going to turn up here. That's awful. No one should have to feel like that, whether they're male or female’. (female freelancer, PPH, Jan 2018)
  15. 15. Making visible female work-lives in the ‘Sharing Economy’? (Familiar?) Discussion  Highly varied female worker experiences (and blurring with freelancer / contractor / PT emp categories) –very few 100% platform  Some novelty, but strong consistencies with previous work  Compromise WLB and female freelancers: juggling work, home and family  Obfuscatory limits to the ‘Sharing Economy’ label – positive discourse distracts from negative worker experiences (also a term workers not using) (c.f. digital on-demand)  Methodological challenges of researching female freelancers through platforms (posting interview tasks, being moderated, deposit payments, limits of university financing!)  Gendered online labour market inequalities? – experiences of ‘male returners’?  Subcontracted capitalism & virtual challenges to collective organizing
  16. 16. Mumpreneur ‘constructed as a high-achieving, flexible, creative, multi-tasking “supermom” who makes use of digital information and communication technologies to run a business from home while maximizing quality time with her (biological) children’ (Krueger 2015: 2). Geographical distribution and ‘spacing’ of jobs, housing and services within a particular urban area determine the working time arrangements and childcare options actually available to workers managing one or more careers from a fixed residential location (Jarvis and Pratt 2006: 333) Emancipatory Work-Life Possibilities in the ‘Sharing Economy’? Digital Mumpreneurs
  17. 17. TIME Magazine 2015
  18. 18. Precarity & Poor Pay in the ‘Gig Economy’ ‘Lyft, for months, has been the only job I have been able to hang onto, having been laid off from my other (part time) position late last year. Night after night I have been behind the wheel trying to break even. So, it's been just Lyft for months and months and months, and all of what I make goes right back into bills, with a little bit going in my gas tank. I’m working my ass off’. (Lyft Driver, Colorado Springs, Sat 16 August 2015) Been driving around the Twin Cities, MN for the last few days getting a feel of this Uber thing. I was originally attracted to it by their little ad claiming a person is guaranteed to make 4k a month driving if you put in 40 hours. I figured that figure is probably somewhat exaggerated, but if I was to get 3/4ths of that or sometimes the 4k.. it would be worth it right? How the (#*$ can they possible lie THAT badly and get away with it. I mean, in three days of about 6 hours each.. I've managed to make about $14-16 an hour before any expenses. Meaning, Mcdonalds is a better option. Any grown person with a brain knows that any person working Independent would have to make $20 an hour for it to be worth it.. and probably $25 an hour in order to abuse a personal asset like a car in the process. Then the nerve the company has.. when I’m taking a person on a 40 minute 26 mile journey to the airport. My pay was about 29 I think.. They take 9 dollars!! That’s literally nuts. And a trip like that is the best case scenario that you'll get all day. I said to myself that’s A TON of money this company is making for running an App. qpcomma1, Wednesday at 6:29 PM. http://uberpeople.net/threads/new-driver-shocked.120159/

Editor's Notes

  • Variety of economic activities that involve mobile and internet technologies in service delivery. These activities are not based on ‘sharing’, but a monetisation of human effort and consumer assets, with platform company advantage based on arbitrage between their new practices and the rules by which established companies operate (and which were intended to protect customers, communities and workers) Kenney and Zysman 2016
  • Platform economy: Variety of economic activities that involve mobile and internet technologies in service delivery. These activities are not based on ‘sharing’, but a monetisation of human effort and consumer assets, with platform company advantage based on arbitrage between their new practices and the rules by which established companies operate (and which were intended to protect customers, communities and workers) Kenney and Zysman 2016
    Celebrating the sharing economy. Capitalism is dead: The dawn of a new era? (Jeremy Rikfin)
    sharing economy has generated considerable controversies both in the scholarly literature and in public debate.
    some speculate about the dawn of a new era and see the contours of a new economic paradigm that is gradually replacing capitalism (e.g. Rifkin 2014: 1).
    ‘it is called the sharing economy or the Collaborative Commons. This is the first new economic system to enter onto the world stage since the advent of capitalism’ (Rifkin 2014:1)!!!
    ‘’The optimally efficient state for promoting the general welfare and represents the ultimate triumph of capitalism’ (p. 10-11)!!!
    collaborative commons emerges from the ashes of the Great Recession, when millions of families found themselves awash in stuff they didn’t use much, and buried in debt to finance it. Offers chance to drastically reduce the income divide, and to democratize the global economy
    Third Industrial Revolution –Internet Technologies reduces marginal cost of producing many goods and services almost to zero (internet eliminates virtually all middlemen who mark up transaction costs at every stage of the value chain), means reduced start up costs in distributed peer to peer networks, making them practically free and shareable on the emerging collaborative commons - From economy of scarcity to economy of abundance.
    Unbundling of production from employment [but hasn’t this been the feminist project for decades? – revaluing of work, not done for a wage, not done in public sphere, not done under contract]
    ‘The old paradigm of owners and workers, and of sellers and consumers, is beginning to break down. Consumers are becoming their own producers’ (Rifkin 2014: 160-1). New class of ‘prosumers’, born out of the internet generation.
    Reduced social inequality
    Hybrid economy – part capitalist, part sharing economy, but giving way to sharing economy as dominant way of organizing economic life. Collaborative commons ‘frees human beings from the market to pursue nonmaterial shared interests’ (Rifkin 2014: 161). An emphasis on quality of life rather than merely the quantity of economic output. ‘a more humane and efficient capitalist market’ (Rifkin 2014: 27).
  • New distributions of productive / reproductive divisions of work in the sharing economy?
    *Does digital work enable working parents to achieve a better WLB?
    various press accounts of how sharing economy allows parents to trade baby clothes that are too small, and to share the cost of nannies, Peer to peer sharing around childcare – takes us a little way in understanding new sharing economy possibilities for parents of young children.
    c.f. more explicit focus on mothers as digital entrepreneurs in the sharing economy
    FORBES (2015) interview with founder and CEO of Moonlighting (nationwide mobile, on-demand application where one can hire or be hired in any community in the country):
    “Mobile Optimized Mothers, or as we call them M.O.M’s, are fueling the new 1099 shared economy,” stated Moonlighting Founder and CEO Jeff Tennery. “Women are empowering themselves, choosing to work from home and earn a living on their terms. We’re very honored to help them on their mission to achieve that balance between career and life.”
     
    e.g. The Guardian (2014) report on Zipcar, which was co-founded by women: Robin Chase and co-founder Antje Danielson in 1999, currently has more than 10,000 vehicles and about 860,000 members in 27 markets. e.g. female entrepreneurs comprise 88% of Etsy’s seller base in the US. 2013 online survey of 94,000 sellers.
    Motivations for female digital entrepreneurship
    US national Women’s Business Council (2011): statistically different motivations men and women for starting businesses: men primarily for wealth creation, women for more flexibility and independence
    Social constructions of good mother versus good father – everyday pressures on women to be present, less expected of men
    Juggling paid work around female majority responsibility for childcare
    Digital platforms as enabling new forms of startup that fit around childcare
    (also underpinned by suggestions that crowdfunding through the sharing economy allows female technology entrepreneurs to overcome long documented challenges of accessing mainstream VC networks (see e.g. Candida Brush and colleagues in the US)).
     
  • Worker empowerment in the sharing economy?
    the sharing economy poses new possibilities and new challenges for workers, organizers and academics seeking to understand the transformations currently underway.
    In contrast to Rifkin, other commentators more skeptical, pointing to the ideological spin that surrounds the sharing economy label, and a concern to make visible the downsides of the emergent phenomena and those who power them, especially the “digital peasantry” who are the people behind the apps
    Robert Reich (2015): from ‘sharing economy’ to ‘sharing the scraps economy’ and ‘digital peasantry’: human beings do the work that’s unpredictable – odd jobs, on-call projects, fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any and all hours – and patch together barely enough to live on. New software technologies are allowing almost any job to be divided up into discrete tasks that can be parceled out to workers when they’re needed, with pay determined by demand for that particular job at that particular moment. Customers and workers are matched online. Workers are rated on quality and reliability. The big money goes to the corporations that own the software. The scraps go to the on-demand workers. an Internet job board offering minimal pay for mindlessly-boring bite-sized chores. The new on-demand work shifts risks entirely onto workers.
    be clear that what is often labeled as sharing is in fact renting
    Commentary reinforced by negative experiences as a function of race documented on online forums for e.g. uber drivers (UberDrivers.net). also: essay ‘ubering while black’. Harvard Business School researchers published working paper in January 2014 stating that non-black Airbnb members in New York City are able to charge 12% more than their black counterparts, while holding factors like location, rental characteristics, and quality constant.
    Rifkin (2014: 289) – ‘WHO COULD BE OPPOSED TO THE IDEA OF COLLABORATIVE CONSUMPTION AND A SHARING ECONOMY?’
    But not much commentary in econ geog from labour geographers so far. Here, focus on labor relations questions in session call:
    * To what extent does “sharing work” have an empowering, liberating effect at a time when more and more people find it increasingly difficult to meet the demands of more formal, traditional work environments?
    *In what ways are sharing economies segmented by gender (as well as race)? Does digital work disrupt, or reinforce, categories of social difference and the way they shape the distribution of productive and reproductive work?
  • =
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    worker preferences not simply for flextime (relatively cheap provision for employers, but deals with symptom of WLB problem rather than cause), but for flexplace (especially in the context of long commutes and high house costs in Dublin). And reduced hours? (However, WLB preferences also shifted in the context of the economic downturn (lesser preference for reduced hours)
    March 2015 survey conducted by TaskRabbit (US and UK): taskers join in pursuit of more time flexibility and spatial flexibility of work schedule. 65% of Millennial Taskers say they earn enough money on TaskRabbit to support their lifestyle and have a healthy work/life balance by working 20 hours or less per week. 77% of Millennial Taskers say TaskRabbit is the only Sharing Economy platform they use to earn money. BUT 84% of millennial Taskers make themselves available to task during holidays, if the price is right.
    BUT: Ongoing long hours work in the sharing economy
    WLB mainstream literature - Constant feelings of pressure and intense busyness are encapsulated in terms frequently used to describe contemporary life, including ‘time poor’, ‘time starved’, ‘time squeezed’ and ‘time pressure’. Similar terms used on various uber driver forums and others…
    Also:
    ‘Lyft, for months, has been the only job I have been able to hang onto, having been laid off from my other (part time) position late last year. And while it appears I finally have some promising prospects on my job hunt, night after night I have been behind the wheel trying to break even. So, it's been just Lyft for months and months and months, and all of what I make goes right back into bills, with a little bit going in my gas tank. I’m working my ass off’. (Lyft Driver, Colorado Springs, Sat 16 August 2015)
    c.f. sharing economy ‘frees human beings from the market to pursue nonmaterial shared interests’ (Rifkin 2014: 161) (!)
  •  
  • Reconfigured geographies of worker agency in the sharing economy? towards a (strangely familiar) research agenda in EG?
    Exciting possibilities for new work around gendered geographies of work-life in the sharing economy – very little research literature on this. And to extend the focus of sharing economy research beyond the US.
    More broadly, potential to contribute to an expanded labour geographies research agenda, concerned to move away from earlier conceptions of worker agency rooted in union collectives
    BUT, how new? (taking Rifkin’s argument to its logical conclusion, a new paradigmatic model of value production should demand new theory to explain that new reality – argue instead that existing, and earlier work in geography seems pretty well suited to this task…)
    Structures that underpin ongoing gendered labour market inequality in the sharing economy: Uber algorithms reliant on user-generated ratings systems as privileging male drivers; users canceling rides if they got drivers whose appearance they didn’t like. Also Etsy (2013) report: Etsy sellers are mostly women and report higher levels of education than most Americans — yet, the average median income for Etsy sellers is just $44,900, ten percent lower than the national average. (see Jennifer Neeley blog). C.f. claims that some Taskrabbit handymen earn $78 000 per year.
    WLB and freelancers / contractors – much of worker comment on sharing economy online forums mimics insights already identified through WLB studies of freelancers, and contractors. This literature finds limited WLB benefits amongst freelancer / self-employed IT professionals as a function of: Tremblay and Gennin (2008): working on several contracts simultaneously, long working hours, stress and the interference of work with personal life. (Only 19% say self-employment has decreased their stress, and 50% do not note any change compared to their former situation).
     
    New digital forms of subcontracted capitalism (and hence new challenges of collectively organizing? Following Wills’ earlier work – of increasingly complex sub-contracting agreements and distance between worker, and ultimate employer of last resort who determine their conditions of work (or in this case, algorithm programmers who determine their conditions of work from afar?), and the limits of building worker power vis a vis those employers using old organizing models rooted in an earlier fordist industrial era) – but within these structures of constraint, also note development of alternative organizing initiatives e.g. Freelancers Union to collectively reduce risk pool resources, building networks, and developing new solutions to meet needs copoperatively in the ‘gig economy’. ‘a community of freelancers to influence policy and make freelancing a sustainable option for anyone who wants to pursue it’
    From workers to prosumers? (class divisions eroded?) Reworking / extension of previous LETS agenda? – e.g. female dominance of LETS but still women paid less than men as a function of personal negotiation of price. Need for trust in LETS for them to function, and problems with scaling that up. Parallels striking with female dominance of some sharing economy platforms, but with ongoing gender pay gap. (Also overlaps with previous findings around significance of lets as alternative economic systems that are significant not only because they seek to move towards a more utopian economic future which is more socially inclusive, but also make visible a set of taken for granted assumptions about value creation, and social relations of work and class in the formal economy; but which also suffer a series of tensions which as a function of their reconciliation, means that LETS become more like the mainstream formal economy over time) – similar processes at work in the sharing economy?
    Picking out key indicators of paradigm change during the period of change. Also commonalities with earlier consensus in economic geography around the challenges and limits of economic transition models (see e.g. Martin 1994: transition models tend to over generalise, by collapsing a complex range of changes and shifts into a single concept or logic, or stylize the old versus the new,. And by imposing a façade of coherence on a much more confused and messy reality) sharing economy most adequately conceptualized as a fuzzy realm at the crossroads of various logics of economic practice (including those that may be considered as “more-than-capitalist”) and an arena where our economic future is being negotiated, a fuzzy realm imbricated with, but not fully reducible to corporate and marketized circuits of value.
     
  • * To what extent does “sharing work” have an empowering, liberating effect at a time when more and more people find it increasingly difficult to meet the demands of more formal, traditional work environments?
    Major drivers of work-life conflict documented in the ‘mainstream formal’ economy:
    Working longer and harder, and to less predictable schedules as firms have sought to displace the risks of market volatility (‘flexibility’ for many workers has come to mean working to less predictable and more individualised work schedules, and more unsocial work hours). hence, worker difficulties of meeting the demands of more formal, traditional work environments
    Stubborn employer skepticism of the so called business case for WLB provision (additional administrative burden, hence employer provision that is cheapest, rather than most effective
    urban spatial disconnection between sites of paid work and everyday social reproduction and care in the city
    One dominant theme in WLB literature is of how spatial differences in the urban ‘spacing’ of jobs, housing, and public services which geographically delimit the work-life options available to workers and households (Jarvis 2005, Jarvis and Pratt 2006). Potential project on the role of the sharing economy in generating new urban geographies of connection between new sites of housing, jobs, schools, transport systems, leisure and commodified forms of caring services (eldercare facilities, childcare services, gyms, hair salons) are crucial to understanding the wider context in which work-life calculations and decisions are made ???? – or what Jarvis (2005: 141) identifies as the ‘infrastructure of everyday life’. suburban sprawl and the privatisation of public transport services in many cities, with an emphasis on profitable peak time routes – sharing economy as changing this?
    However, also note that the development of new work possibilities in the sharing economy potentially does nothing to change the wider drivers of work life conflict, including in increased household / extended family diversity and welfare state rollback (care down to ‘natural level of the home’). [what is the role of Airbnb in challenging versus reinforcing long-standing female majority responsibility for social reproductive homecare tasks on massive scale, commercialised through sharing economy???]
    ALSO – home working does not necessarily make for an improved WLB. Own work to date points to the double edged sword: that working effectively at home required the use of purchased childcare for some or all of the working day, to enable them to work from home in any meaningful sense. Likewise the increased personal sense of conflict that emerges from a greater blurring of home and work space without physical separation.
    SCOPE FOR FURTHER RESEARCH: how far employer pressures of conflict are rendered irrelevant through the new category of prosumer (in which old class divisions rooted in work / owners of means of production distinction are effectively erased?) – that workers’ previous struggles to convince employers of the need for better WLB provision (in the context of govt refusal to interfere in firms right to manage) is solved, because workers effectively become their own employers who are already convinced of the need for greater temporal and spatial flexibility of work?
    (Key question How do the drivers and experiences of work life conflict documented in the formal economy, compare with those in sharing economy?)
  • Source: TIME MAGAZINE 2015
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    worker preferences not simply for flextime (relatively cheap provision for employers, but deals with symptom of WLB problem rather than cause), but for flexplace (especially in the context of long commutes and high house costs in Dublin). And reduced hours? (However, WLB preferences also shifted in the context of the economic downturn (lesser preference for reduced hours)
    March 2015 survey conducted by TaskRabbit (US and UK): taskers join in pursuit of more time flexibility and spatial flexibility of work schedule. 65% of Millennial Taskers say they earn enough money on TaskRabbit to support their lifestyle and have a healthy work/life balance by working 20 hours or less per week. 77% of Millennial Taskers say TaskRabbit is the only Sharing Economy platform they use to earn money. BUT 84% of millennial Taskers make themselves available to task during holidays, if the price is right.
    BUT: Ongoing long hours work in the sharing economy
    WLB mainstream literature - Constant feelings of pressure and intense busyness are encapsulated in terms frequently used to describe contemporary life, including ‘time poor’, ‘time starved’, ‘time squeezed’ and ‘time pressure’. Similar terms used on various uber driver forums and others…
    Also:
    ‘Lyft, for months, has been the only job I have been able to hang onto, having been laid off from my other (part time) position late last year. And while it appears I finally have some promising prospects on my job hunt, night after night I have been behind the wheel trying to break even. So, it's been just Lyft for months and months and months, and all of what I make goes right back into bills, with a little bit going in my gas tank. I’m working my ass off’. (Lyft Driver, Colorado Springs, Sat 16 August 2015)
    c.f. sharing economy ‘frees human beings from the market to pursue nonmaterial shared interests’ (Rifkin 2014: 161) (!)

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