The Uber-ization of work: The good side, the bad side

The Uber-ization of work: The good side, the bad side

What if work was a flexible series of small jobs or "gigs" & not the typical 9 to 5, Monday to Friday routine workweek?


The Uberization of work: The good side, the bad side 

Tientip Subhanij

Why do we need to be in the same place from 9-5 for five days a week to do our jobs?

Couldn't we be anywhere in the world and still deliver exactly the same output?

Why shouldn't we take on inspiring new projects whenever we want and work the hours that suit us?

The digital revolution and the so-called "sharing economy" or "gig-economy" are answering these questions and rapidly changing the very definition of the word "job".

The 'sharing economy' is a little difficult to define but one definition runs roughly, "paying to access services such as taxi services (Uber) or rent assets such as someone's condo (Airbnb) via online market places" (see here).

The "sharing economy" enables a "gig economy" in which people make money by doing a series of small jobs or "gigs".


A "gig" initially meant "paid performance work for musicians" for a "musical engagement" which could range from a single musical performance lasting only one night to a lot longer.

Recently, the company Uber has made it possible for anyone owning a car to make money as a taxi-driver, when and where they want, a sort of "one ride gig driving a taxi". 

Work for many people is now a series of gigs, a situation that can be good in some ways and bad in other ways, outlined below.

The "gig economy" or "uberization of work" or "let's uberize the entire economy" are different ways of describing this trend (see here & here).


Online platforms that match employers with freelancers enable people to work temporarily or do different kinds of work and get paid for each task separately

This could be termed a "gig economy" in which people take temporary positions, become part-time workers, or self-employed on a short-term basis.

With the rise of digital platforms that offer on-demand access to products, services or expertise with just a click of a mouse or a swipe on a smartphone, the gig economy is expanding rapidly.

Nowadays, anyone with reasonable talent and an internet connection can do a variety of jobs or run a variety of small businesses, depending on the way you look at it, for example:

1. Turn your condo into a hotel through Airbnb.
2. Become an art retailer through Etsy.
3. Run errands for others with TaskRabbit.
4. Engage in a transport business through Uber or Grab

And people can do this from anywhere in the world and at any time they want.


Although the gig economy is still small, its growth has been exponential.

In the UK, the number of self-employed people is now close to 5 million and is fast catching up with the number in the public sector.

In the US, more than one in three workers or almost 54 million people are now freelance.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, from 2005-15 the net number of all new jobs created in the US was 9.1 million, smaller than the increase of 9.4 million in gig jobs, implying that net employment growth during this period has come from alternative work arrangements.


Meanwhile, the market for gig economy platforms and related services is also growing quickly.

The market is expected to be worth almost US$63 billion globally by 2020, compared with $10 billion in 2014.

The main drivers are increased demand for flexible hours, technological advancement and a stagnant economy.


Having a "real" job has traditionally meant a 9 to 5 Monday to Friday work week with a fixed monthly salary and paid holidays together with relative job security from month to month.

With the emergence of digital matching firms such as Airbnb, Uber, Upwork and TaskRabbit, more and more of us are choosing to make our living working gigs rather than full-time.

The consultancy McKinsey estimates that by 2025, more than 500 million workers will have used a digital platform to find work.


The digital revolution has significantly reduced the cost of starting a business.

People can now easily utilise spare time and underutilised skills and assets and become entrepreneurs at little or no cost.

To most workers the best part of gigs is that they can: 1. set their own hours and 2. become their own boss.

In corporations, salaried employees traditionally worked hard to be promoted to higher positions.

In the digital world, workers look in many directions and find growth by doing different things, acquire new experiences and skills, as well as connect with new networks.

If the world was powered by millions of small business entrepreneurs who run own their own businesses, rather than a few large corporations, this could reduce economic inequality in the long-run.


Still, the gig economy does raise concerns about worker protection and social inequality.

The gig economy may be just another way for big corporations to cut costs, concentrating wealth in the hands of platform providers.

BIg companies might be able to gain access to a large pool of cheap workers, without having to pay for holidays or sick leave or offering any financial security.

By allowing people to bid for work, sites such as Upwork could drive down global wages because workers in developing countries may be willing to work at very low rates.


Whatever kind of world we evolve into, the rise of the gig economy will be one of the most disruptive and powerful social trends in modern history.

And if we want to use this power to break away from the winner-take-all game that governs capitalism today, we must rethink business regulations and the provision of an adequate social safety net -- making sure that the rules are fair and tailored to the needs of all workers.

And as individuals facing an ever-changing job market, it never hurts to start planning for the future.

Dr Tientip Subhanij holds a PhD in economics from the University of Cambridge, and currently has a career in banking as well as academia. She can be reached at

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  • access: having the opportunity to have or use something - มีโอกาสในการใช้
  • adequate: good enough or large enough for a particular purpose - พอเพียง
  • advancement (noun): the process of helping something to make progress or succeed; the progress that is made - การพัฒนา, การรุดหน้า, ความเติบโต, ความคืบหน้า
  • alternative: another choice - ทางเลือก, ตัวเลือก
  • arrangement: a plan or preparation that you make so that something can happen - การจัดการ
  • asset: a thing of value - สิ่งที่มีคุณค่า
  • asset: something owned by a person, company etc., particularly money and property - ทรัพย์สิน
  • basis (noun): the idea or system that something is "based" on - พื้นฐาน,รากฐาน,หลักสำคัญ
  • catching up: to go faster and reach same point as someone who is ahead of you, in a race or competition -
  • compare (verb): to show or state that somebody/something is similar to somebody/something else - เปรียบเทียบ
  • concentrate (verb): to bring something together in one place - ทำให้ตรงไปยังจุดศูนย์กลาง
  • concern: a worry - ความกังวล
  • connection: something that connects two things, etc. - การเชื่อมต่อ การเชื่อมโยง
  • corporation: a large business company - บริษัท
  • define: to describe clearly and exactly what something is - กำหนด, ระบุ, ทำให้ชัดเจน
  • definition: a statement of what a word or expression means - คำจำกัดความ,คำอธิบาย
  • deliver: to do what you what you are expected to do; to produce or provide what people expect you to - ทำตามความสามารถ
  • demand (noun): the need and desire of people to buy goods - อุปสงค์
  • developing country (noun): a country that is still growing and industrializing and is not yet a rich country - ประเทศกำลังพัฒนา
  • digital: involving computers -
  • disruptive: causing difficulties that interrupt something or prevent it from functioning normally - ที่แตกแยก
  • driver (noun): something that causes other things to happen (example: a driver of economic growth) -
  • emergence: the process of appearing - การปรากฎออกมา
  • employer: a person, company, or organisation that pays someone to work for them as a member of their staff - นายจ้าง
  • employment (noun): when a person has work that earns them money - การจ้างงาน, การงาน
  • engagement (noun): a formal arrangement for meeting people or doing something - การนัดหมาย
  • entrepreneur: someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves risks - นักลงทุนทางการเงิน
  • evolve: to develop gradually, or to cause something or someone to develop gradually - ค่อยๆ พัฒนา
  • exactly: precisely - อย่างเที่ยงตรง,อย่างถูกต้อง,อย่างแม่นยำ,อย่างแน่นอน,อย่างละเอียด
  • expertise: a high level of knowledge or skill - ทักษะความรู้, ความคิดเห็นของผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • exponential: becoming faster and faster - เพิ่มแบบชี้กำลัง
  • fixed (adj): not changing - ที่ตายตัว, ที่ไม่สามารถเปลี่ยนแปลง,
  • flexible: able to change to suit new conditions or situations - เปลี่ยนแปลงได้,แก้ได้
  • freelance: earning money by selling your work or services to several different organisations rather than being employed by one particular organisation - ทำงาน อิสระ, บุคคคที่เสนอตนเองเพื่อรับทำงาน
  • freelancer: a person who earns money by selling their work or services to several different organisations rather than being employed by one particular organisation - ทำงาน อิสระ, บุคคคที่เสนอตนเองเพื่อรับทำงาน
  • gig: a single job for someone such as a musician, a presenter, a comedian, etc. - งานชั่วคราว
  • global: throughout the world - ทั่วโลก
  • globally: throughout the world - ทั่วโลก
  • imply: to suggest that you think something without saying it directly - บอกเป็นนัย, แสดงนัย
  • individual: a person considered separately rather than as part of a group - บุคคล
  • inequality: a situation in which people are not equal because some groups have more opportunities, power, money etc than others - ความไม่เสมอภาค
  • initially: at first - ในเบื้องต้น
  • job security: a guarantee that you will keep your job - ความมั่นคงในงาน
  • lasting: continuing to exist or have an effect for a long time - ที่กินเวลานาน
  • matchmaking: the activity of finding a suitable partner for someone, for example, a business partner or a husband for a woman or a wife for a man -
  • meanwhile: at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน
  • musician (noun): a person who plays a musical instrument or writes music, especially as a job - นักดนตรี
  • net (adj): a final amount, after everything has been subtracted or taken away -
  • never hurts: is something you should do (and it is not very difficult) -
  • on-demand (adj): done or happening whenever somebody asks - ตามคำขอ
  • online: controlled by or connected to a computer or to the Internet - ออนไลน์, การเชื่อมต่อผ่านระบบเครือข่ายทางคอมพิวเตอร์
  • outline (verb): to give the main ideas of a plan or a piece of writing without giving all the details - สรุปส่วนสำคัญ
  • output: the amount of something produced - ปริมาณ(กระแสไฟฟ้า)ที่ผลิตขึ้น
  • part-time (adj.): working or doing some other activity that is less than 40 hours per week, that does not use up all your time during the day (opposite: full-time) -
  • performance: the act of carrying out some type of entertainment or sport - การแสดง
  • period: a particular length of time - ระยะเวลา
  • platform (noun): the type of computer system or the software that is used; a technology -
  • platform: a technology -
  • position: a job - ตำแหน่ง
  • possible: might be the right choice, but not sure yet -
  • protection: the act of protecting somebody/something; the state of being protected - การอารักขา, การปกป้อง
  • provider (noun): a person/company who gives or supplies something - ผู้ให้
  • provision: a part of an agreement or law that deals with a particular problem - มาตรา, บทบัญญัติ,
  • public sector: government sector; part of the economy controlled by the government - ภาครัฐบาล
  • range from: to include a variety of different things in addition to those mentioned - ขยายออก, แบ่งประเภท
  • rapidly: happening quickly - อย่างรวดเร็ว
  • reasonable: fair, practical and sensible - มีเหตุผล
  • reduce: to make something smaller or less in amount, size, importance etc - ลดลง
  • regulation: an official rule that controls the way that things are done - กฎระเบียบ
  • relative: somewhat; in comparison with someone or something similar - ค่อนข้าง
  • revolution (noun): a great change in conditions, ways of working, beliefs, etc. that affects large numbers of people - การเปลี่ยนแปลงอย่างสิ้นเชิง
  • safety net: an arrangement that helps to prevent disaster if something goes wrong -
  • salary: a fixed amount of money that you earn each month or year from your job - เงินเดือน
  • self-employed: working for yourself, for your own small business; not working for another person's company -
  • separately (adv): not together; as a separate person or thing - ต่างหาก; เป็นรายบุคคล
  • short-term: lasting a short time; designed only for a short period of time in the future - ระยะสั้น, ช่วงสั้น
  • significantly: in an important way - อย่างมีความหมาย, อย่างสำคัญ
  • situation: all the circumstances and things that are happening at a particular time and in a particular place - สถานการณ์
  • skills (noun): the ability to do certain things well, usually as a result of experience and training - ฝีมือ, ทักษะ
  • social (adjective): related to society, to people and the way they are connected to each other and interact with each other - เกี่ยวกับสังคม
  • stagnant: not developing, growing or changing - นิ่ง, ซึมเซา
  • swipe: to move something quickly over another thing -
  • talent: a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught - ความสามารถพิเศษ
  • task: something that you have to do - งาน, หน้าที่; ภารกิจ
  • temporarily: for a limited period of time - ชั่วคราว
  • temporary: done or used for only a limited period of time, i.e., not permanent - ชั่วคราว
  • traditionally: of something that has not changed for a long time - ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา
  • trend: a gradual change or development that produces a particular result   - ทิศทาง แนวโน้ม
  • utilise: to use something, especially for a practical purpose - ทำให้เป็นประโยชน์
  • wage: an amount of money that you earn for working, usually according to how many hours or days you work each week or month - ค่าจ้าง
  • wealth: a large amount of money, property, etc. that a person or country owns - ความมั่งคั่ง
  • worth: having a value in money, etc - มีค่า, มีมูลค่า
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