‘Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work, ’Sarah Kessler, St. Martin’s, 289 pages, $25.99.
Journalist Sarah Kessler in “Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work” follows freelancers as they try, and mostly fail, to find a better way to make a living.
Bored at the office? Don’t like having a rigid schedule or a boss telling you what to do? Sign up with Uber, or any other online platform for freelancers. Work only as much as you need or want to. Sure enough, the people in Kessler’s book turn to gigs for flexibility and financial independence. The only problem is, according to Kessler, it seldom works out that way.
An Uber driver named Mamdooh Husein finds that after accounting for oil changes, air fresheners, car washes, gas and Uber’s commission, he takes home less than minimum wage. When he tries to organize a strike, Uber fires him.
By tagging pictures of food and writing product descriptions, a Canadian named Kristy Milland earns $20 an hour for a website, but she has to work so fast that she develops carpal tunnel and a cyst on her wrist as big and hard as a marble. She does not qualify for sick leave of workers’ comp as a gig worker. So she rigs her computer to sound a siren whenever a lucrative task becomes available, sleeping in her office so she can take jobs in the middle of the night without waking her husband.
The gig economy turns out to be less a brave new world than an opportunity for companies to transfer risks to their employees and offer few benefits in return. Kessler concludes that reinventing work without also reinventing the social safety net “can’t quite count as progress.”