The gig economy is undoubtedly growing. Companies like Uber, Lyft, AirBnB and websites such as Upwork and Fiverr advertise themselves as methods by which workers can gain flexible work. It is always assumed that flexibility is something that is desirable in the workplace. They pitch themselves to workers as the means by which they ‘can be their own boss’ and ‘hustle harder for greater rewards’. The narrative suggests that the gig economy will provide workers with freedom. However, this article suggests that this positive picture is far from the truth.
The gig economy raises questions about whether this ‘freedom’ is really exploitation dressed up as entrepreneurial ability. The primary story in the article, that of a woman who continued to work for rideshare company Lyft while in labour, was distributed by Lyft as an uplifting story celebrating the hard work of its drivers. However, fostering a culture in which a woman in labor chooses to work rather than seek medical attention demonstrates a fundamental disrespect to individual’s human rights, in particular economic and social rights. It can be seen as a symptom of growing inequality – with some people forced into increasingly unstable and casual work and others reaping the benefits of globalisation. There is definitely a space for human rights to play a pivotal role in this conversation about inequality. However, the narrative concerning economic and social rights should change to reflect the fact that they are human rights, not unrealistic aspirations. Otherwise there will be a lot more people reliant on the ‘gig economy’ even if that is not their desire.