Is the on-demand sharing economy better than employment?

Is the on-demand sharing economy better than employment?

You would have seen those posts from ‘hiring heros’ on LinkedIn. The corporate managers who have hired 50 year old workers despite opposition from their HR/ leadership. The posts that attract ‘likes’ and comments in the thousands.

Whilst these heroic stories make inspirational reading, the elephant in the room is that hiring an older worker shouldn’t be so newsworthy.

And what is going on for all those older workers who don’t get hired?

In the event of unemployment, the average Australian can access only $3,000 in savings before going into debt¹. Given it takes 68 weeks for someone over 55 to find a job², that $3,000 in savings is going to run out fast.

Fortunately the world is changing

In Australia we are seeing the rapid growth of the on-demand sharing economy. Airbnb and Uber are the obvious platforms that come to mind. In August, I was chuffed to identify 47 diverse platforms that enable Australians to earn an income from the on-demand sharing economy. Three months later I identified over 80 platforms.

Sharing economy platform providers create two sided marketplaces. They are looking for people to share (and monetise) their assets and their time. This enables their customers to have things to borrow.

In addition to the growth in the number of platforms, there is significant growth in demand for the services offered by the individual platforms themselves.  For example, Car Next Door anticipates a forty-fold growth rate in demand for cars to be shared in the next few years³.

This space also includes a large number of on-demand platforms that market specialist skills; management consulting, HR, IT, hospitality, marketing and warehouse work.

So if you are between jobs, you may want to consider the on-demand sharing economy to generate a flexible, portfolio-based income. Trust and reputation are the currency of this new economy. So being older can be an advantage; reliable behaviour earns better ratings and experience can earn you a premium. Some of the sources of income are passive, so job hunters can spend their week days out job hunting.   

The sharing economy is one of ten ideas that are going to change the world
— Time Magazine

Sharing isn’t a new thing

Bed and breakfast style accommodation in people’s homes was big in the UK for decades before Airbnb came along. But recently, several factors have come together to give the on-demand sharing economy a huge boost.

Technology – Cloud computing is enabling vast data sets to be accessed from our smart phones, facilitating on-demand transactions. Online ratings hold platforms and providers accountable. We can now pay securely online.

Desire for community – We naturally desire to do business within community, peer-to-peer rather than with faceless organisations. Farmer’s markets and the rise of ‘collaboration’ as a key workplace competency are an expression of that desire. Now with peer-to-peer platforms, we can do business with like-minded neighbours and others further afield.    

Sustainability – We are increasingly aware that we buy things we rarely use and we want a better way. Those photos of plastic floating across the world’s oceans repulse us; a reminder that the earth’s resources are precious and finite.

Living in smaller places – In trading off space for proximity to amenities we know that if we want a port-a-cot for our baby for a weekend away that the best option may be to borrow one. We don’t buy a drill, we pay for someone to drill us a hole. Who has space for all these consumer goods?

Vibrant Australian entrepreneur community – Start-ups are entering the market with compelling, problem-solving offerings. Legacy providers are being out-competed by entrepreneurs offering better services for better value.

A mega-growth engine creating opportunity and flexibility

The on-demand sharing economy is on a strong, disruptive growth trajectory. In NSW, revenue from the sector increased by 68% last year³.

Further, last year, the number of people who earned income from these on-demand sharing platforms doubled³.

In contrast, the conventional job market is inflexible and excludes certain groups of people.

Helping people find opportunities in the vibrant on-demand sharing economy is now my full time gig. I have launched a start-up called IncomeConnection. We match people who seek an income with opportunities to earn an income from the on-demand sharing economy.

There is a better way.


¹2015 study by Map My Plan. ²ABC News: Age discrimination: Over 50s search twice as long for work than 15-24s 19 May 2017. ³Deloitte Access Economics Review of the Collaborative Economy in NSW 2015. ⁴ Deloitte Access Economics Developments in the Collaborative Economy in NSW 2016.

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