Thursday, 1 June 2017

The gig economy - a missed opportunity

The term gig economy is often not what it says it is and this is usually bad for everyone except employers (except of course that they claim not to be employers). 

20 years ago I spent 3 years working in the gig economy as a self employed cycle courier. What this meant was working for a courier company with all of the usual employees, sales people, call assistants, controllers, managers but no couriers. All of the couriers; van drivers, motorcyclists and pushbikers were self employed.

At the time I didn't mind this, in fact I enjoyed the freedom and taking responsibility for looking after my own affairs was a positive experience. However the system was and remains inherently inefficient and the opportunity to make a living was limited.

20 years later I find myself in a position where I use couriers on a daily basis and being a somewhat impatient person I am frankly skeptical about the benefits of the so called gig economy.

What exactly is the gig here? Is it the individual job or is it the days work? Or the weeks work? Or the month or year? The way this work is renumerated is by the job.  The reality is that each courier is in service (employed) to a single courier company. As self employed couriers they should be free to take jobs from any courier company based on location and where they are headed. 

This would effectively widen the pool of couriers available from those in service to a particular company to the entire fleet of self employed couriers working at any one time. In other words creating a real market for self employed couriers to compete in.

Increasing the efficiency of the overall system in this way would mean a better service for customers, increased productivity of the couriers and improved services offered by courier companies.

How can a proper market for the services of self employed couriers come about? Can a GPS network based technology be applied to create such a market where courier companies hire riders and drivers based on their location, direction and availability? 

A system like this could increase productivity for everyone concerned including the businesses who need to use these services.

While writing this I came across a company called Brisqq who are supplying retail customers with deliveries. They say that "Brisqq's algorithm selects the best freelance courier (closest, highest rated, most appropriate vehicle etc.)"

Brisqq's reference to freelance couriers suggests they really are plugging into a pool of freelance couriers. I wonder if this is what they mean or is this their freelance couriers who are not allowed to work for anyone else? I hope its the former.

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