Why the Gig Economy can be an Online Hell for Workers

Karl Marx would not be surprised by the gig economy, said Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg.com. Marx’s proletariat was made up of laborers who were “increasingly impoverished by the rise of machines.” Well guess what? That describes the workers on “digital labor platforms” such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk perfectly.

The “click-worker” jobs on these platforms can include “filling out questionnaires for academic researchers, transcribing audio, even moderating content for social networks.” These jobs are demanding and require education, yet the people who do them earn an average of only $4.43 an hour, according to a survey of 3,500 workers from 75 countries. That number falls to $3.31 an hour when you factor in unpaid time spent looking for orders, researching clients, and taking qualification tests.

It’s not just workers in poor countries who are paid these wages. Two-thirds of U.S. “Turkers” made less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. These are “hellish” jobs without even “basic worker protections.” Should a modern society tolerate jobs that come with no worker rights and no possibility of dignified survival? “And even if such jobs are allowed, should they be offered by huge tech companies that provide outsize returns to shareholders?” Shouldn’t gig workers get to live in a world that feels like 2018, not Marx’s 1848?

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of NetLingo.com
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