Wealth and Generations

Article/Op-Ed in Washington Monthly
June 8, 2015

Yet the flip side of the “sharing” economy is the “gig” economy, in which more and more of us, and particularly the young, are no longer employees but, rather, contingent workers who become responsible for buying and maintaining tools, equipment, and places of business, as well as securing health and retirement benefits, that, in previous eras, were furnished by employers. The Uber driver, for example, has responsibility for purchasing and maintaining the car he uses to work for the “ride-sharing” company, just as the contract white-collar worker must often finance and maintain her own office space, IT systems, career training, and other hard and soft assets necessary for her work. Both are also on their own when it comes to traditional employee benefits, and because they cannot count on a regular paycheck, they have an extra need for building savings to cover the increased volatility in their earnings. Though difficult to measure, the increasing uncertainty and contingency that surrounds today’s employment has to be counted as a net negative for most workers’ standard of living.