Post-capitalism? Or ultra-capitalism?

Submitted by martin on 31 May, 2016 - 10:27 Author: Colin Foster

Sell tat online in the morning, write software in the afternoon, drive for Uber in the evening?

The term "gig economy" was coined only in 2009, but now some are hailing it as the wave of a thrilling, versatile, flexible future.

US economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger have found that the percentage in "alternative work arrangements" - contractors, on-call workers, agency temps - rose from 10.1% to 15.8% in 2015, in the USA.

Their figures may underestimate, since they include only those whose main work is "alternative".

There are more "gig" workers in the 55-75 age bracket than in others. And there are more among those with university degrees than among those without.

Arguably, in fact, the big change here may be that "precarious" employment has become more common among previously-secure university-educated and older workers, who are more likely to get media attention for their complaints (or, in a minority, for their self-congratulations), while it had always been common (though less noticed) among worse-off younger workers.

"Precarious" work is still almost always an unwanted makeshift or fallback, rather than a liberated "post-capitalist" lifestyle.

In a recent survey of 19,000 21-36 year olds across the world, 87% of them cited "job security" as a top priority (bit.ly/gig-ec).

73% are in full-time jobs, and only 3% in the full-on "gig economy" (working only "gigs" arranged one-by-one online). And they are working long hours, a quarter of them averaging over 50 hours a week.

The "gig economy" minority is largely only the next stage in from the 17% of 16-24 year olds (in Britain) who over a three-year period have at least six months without jobs, without education, and without training.

Actually, many recent developments make job regularity more, not less, important. Without that regularity, it's hard to get a mortgage or even a rental, a car loan, a mobile phone contract, or to afford training.

The socialist future of work is not the "gig economy", but everyone doing their share of the necessary drudgery - in good conditions and in short hours, made possible by technology - and getting an adequate income, and everyone having, on that secure basis, much more free time for creative and social development.

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