Welcome to the Gig Economy: neoliberal industrial relations and the case of Uber

Abstract

The competitive pressures of neoliberal economies have compelled employers to devolve responsibilities to contractors and subcontractors. The rise information technology platforms have significantly accelerated this trend over past decade. “Sharing economy” companies have such widespread adoption of neoliberalism’s industrial relations that a new moniker—“the Gig Economy”—has taken root. Although shareholders and consumers have benefited, middle-class jobs have been squeezed in the process. This paper uses Uber as a case study to discuss how Sharing Economy entities are merely the latest iteration of companies to enact the neoliberal playbook, including (a) (mis)classifying workers, (b) engaging in regime shopping, and (c) employing the most economically vulnerable, rather than giving rise to a new world of work altogether. The result is a crowding out of middle-class employment by precarious ‘gigs’ that lack legal protections and benefits.

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Zwick, A. Welcome to the Gig Economy: neoliberal industrial relations and the case of Uber. GeoJournal 83, 679–691 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-017-9793-8

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Keywords

  • Sharing economy
  • Gig Economy
  • Neoliberalism
  • Internet
  • Labor relations
  • Wages and benefits