Several analysts have already pointed out the dangers of the gig economy and how it verges on exploitation of workers. Despite being able to work anywhere and have more control over one's time, freelancing has its own pitfalls, especially since freelancers are at the mercy of employers.
Essentially, freelancers are treated like "independent contractors" with no benefits, no opportunity to unionize, low wages, and uncertainty of payments. In his article, Jake Pitre shares his thoughts on the impact of the gig economy on freelancers and how things are more complicated than what people expect.
The result of all this is a profound sense of alienation. I write as a freelancer, and it’s been well-established how unreliable it can be, with late payments (or payments that never come) and increasingly low standard rates.
I work for myself, which is great—I set my own hours, can work in my boxer briefs at home, and more or less choose what sort of stories I want to pursue. At the same time, I also work for every editor I can find, re-starting those relationships each time and unable to build any kind of long-lasting stability.
Even more isolating, I’d say, is my Upwork job, for which I could potentially be rated for the quality of my work in social media, possibly impacting future gigs.
As the gig economy continues to grow and the big companies shift to outsourcing jobs to freelancers, the workforce might find itself digging its own grave. The appeal of freelancing is actually a double-edged sword, giving only an illusion of control when in fact, one slowly becomes alienated from their work.
Freelancers are turned into abstractions rather than people, recontextualizing the social relations of work in new ways. The platform isn’t simply an intermediary, it is the entire infrastructure within which these jobs exist.
(Image credit: Shridhar Gupta/Unsplash)