Saturday, July 7, 2018

Gigged: A Review of the Book by Sarah Kessler


          Sarah Kessler’s Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work is another of those books examining the current jobs situation. Ms. Kessler, a reporter for Quartz, has been observing the “gig economy” since 2011, and her research for this book has included actually taking on gig tasks to see first-hand how the economy works.
          The 250-page book is a fast read. It took me less than a day.
          In the book she interviews several people, including an ethically flexible young man here in Kansas City who worked for and then sued Uber. Uber is one of the few gig jobs that has endured, but Uber keeps changing its terms, which has resulted in drivers’ not being able to make a profit. I’ve talked to a couple of Uber drivers because I couldn’t understand how they could be making any money. One quit after coming to the same conclusion; the other built up a client base and left Uber, taking his clients with him.
          Other examples include a woman who gigged for Mechanical Turk (and wound up with carpal tunnel syndrome and no health insurance), a man who left a high paid but boring job for Gigster, where he did quite well, but in the end, he opted for a job with benefits.
          One of the more interesting stories is about Managed by Q, an office cleaning company. It began as a gig company that contracted with other gig companies to get the cheapest labor available. It turned out Managed by Q got what they paid for and lost clients hand over fist. In the end Managed by Q became a company that hired—gasp!—employees and found that approach, plus treating their employees fairly, worked much better than racing to the bottom of the labor pool.

          While the jury is still out on the gig economy, Ms. Kessler seems to conclude it’s not the answer for people who actually need their gigs to earn them enough to live on, and that the race for the cheapest labor is usually not the best route for gig companies as well.

© 2018 Larry Roth

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