24% of Americans reported earning at least some money from a sharing economy platform over the past year. From dog walkers to writers to cleaners, Americans are increasingly topping up their incomes or making a living off online platforms. In 2016, a Pew Research Center survey of American adults that the sharing economy is more widespread than one might think.
- 8% of American adults have earned money in the last year using sharing economy platform.
- 18% have earned money selling something online.
- 1% have rented out a property on a home-sharing site.
With nearly a quarter of Americans making money in the sharing economy and many more using the same platforms to hire cleaners, handyman, drivers or to find rental accommodations, the real question is what is the impact?
The impact of the sharing economy on hiring and management of talent has already been widespread. However, Arun Sundararajan, author of The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism, concludes, “I don’t expect that all of the world’s economic activity will be delivered through sharing-economy-like platforms…The exception, Airbnb, is simply one in which the capital-labor mix is very different. The fact that you’re sitting on under-utilized real estate capital lends itself well to the platform model because the labor component is not that big a driver of the costs.” This doesn’t mean that the sharing economy isn’t having a profound impact on labor issues. As Sundararajan further observes, “Work is most people’s primary social network and an important source of identity. As more and more people do not have this institutional affiliation, and are working more independently, cities will need to work to develop new community infrastructures, to be community creators for their freelance workforces.”
Sundararajan’s observations are shared by the National League of Cities (NLC). In short, not only are workplaces changing but broader communities are changing too as the sharing economy continues to expand. In a new report, the NLC emphasizes that as more workers rely on digital platforms, work issues will continue to change. First, benefits once funneled through employers will need to be replaced and this includes both retirement and health benefits. There is also concern that with no one watching, exploitation in the workplace situations may escalate. On the up side, young people with previous criminal records may find it easier to enter the workforce and rebuild their reputations and as a result, ease the burden on cities by moving into the economy in a productive way without substantial support from the social services.