New Dawn or Wild West? ‘Sharing Economy’ Goes Global

Written by on December 22, 2015 in Economy with 8 Comments



It's a new dawn for transport, lodging—and pretty much every service under the sun—and it's all about “sharing.”

The so-called sharing economy gained traction across the globe in 2015 as Uber upended the taxi business, Airbnb disrupted the hotel sector and a host of online and mobile startups let people moonlight as chefs or handymen.

Many see great promise in the collaborative economy, starting with the people flocking to it as way to turn their car or apartment, spare time or hobby, into a source of revenue—with far great flexibility than a conventional job.

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A PriceWaterhouse study estimates that the “sharing” or “peer-to-peer” economy will explode from roughly $15 billion in worldwide revenues at the end of 2014 to $325 billion by 2025.

But critics worry the rising sector is an unregulated Wild West with few safeguards for either workers or consumers, and the trend has raised hackles from incumbents fearing for their survival—cue the taxi driver protests against Uber seen around the world.

Posting on the Uber forum under the handle DaveM, one driver describes a summer gig on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, as idyllic.

“I'm making good money. If I put in the hours I can get 18 rides a day,” he writes. “Beach all day drive at night=happiness.”

But user tales of woe collected on a website called AirbnbHell, tell another side of the story.

One lodging guest recounts: “When I got to the house and met the folks they seemed cool. When I went out for dinner, they stole all my stuff and locked me out. To make it worse, they sent me an email saying God bless, Jesus loves you.”

Who stands to benefit?

Facilitated by smartphones and geolocation technology, the sharing model offers consumers vastly expanded choices and often lower prices.

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Spearheaded by giants like Uber, present in at least 67 countries, and Airbnb which operates in 190 countries including Cuba, peer-to-peer platforms have the potential “to radically upend both how we consume goods and how we work to afford them,” said the PwC report.

Notable platforms include Task Rabbit (running errands), Hourly Nerds (computer consultants), Thumbtack (home repairs), Bon Appetour (home-cooked meals) and Washio (laundry). Services such as Instacart, Postmates and Grubhub deliver meals or groceries.

“I see this as one stage in a progression representing how digital technologies are changing how we organize work, which has been going on for 30 years,” said New York University professor Arun Sundararajan, who specializes in the subject.

In the United States alone, some 18 million workers now earn a significant portion of their income outside of traditional employment, according to MBO Partners. And a study by financial software group Intuit found that 80 percent of large corporations plan to increase their use of a “flexible workforce” in coming years.

Sundararajan says his research suggests people in digital labor markets often earn more than in traditional jobs.

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“The evidence I have seen is that wages tend to go up when the work is related to physical presence,” as is the case with transportation, delivery or home services, he told AFP. With services that can be outsourced to distant locations, such as web design or translation, wages often fell.

The people who stand to benefit most, said the NYU professor, are those struggling to make ends meet, and who are at or below median income.


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8 Reader Comments

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  1.' Pinky Deb says:

    Personal dream anthor ki

  2.' Chris Budeweit says:

    it will be a glorious combination of both because as in all things, the light defines the dark… there will always be change and that’s the only absolute…

  3.' Brian Hewitt says:

    Wild west is coming back with a vengence, lock up your daughters, fuel and money…….

  4.' Sean Lord says:

    “An economy that’s aligned with permaculture would be an economy in which the best business decision is the same as the best ecological decision.” ~Charles Eisenstein~

  5.' Fernando Juan Freire Rabell says:


  6.' Anh Nguyen says:

    intresting to read. Thanks for sharing

  7.' Raul Hernandez says:

    About time.

  8.' Daniel Cox says:

    Socialism for the rich, Capitalism for the poor.

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