The 3-January-2015 print edition of The Economist contains an article about the on-demand economy, citing the profound impact of this evolution in the economy’s structure and the challenges being faced by middle-aged service industry professionals in adapting to these new realities.
These pressures have been encountered in the IT sector for many years now, with overseas companies and workers able to deliver professional results at very competitive costs. Outsourcing of IT services is now more the norm than the exception.
Taking such trends to the next level, the article discusses companies like Uber, Handy and SpoonRocket which are dis-assembling local service companies such as taxis, cleaners and takeway meals. Through technology, these companies are arranging on-demand services via a mobile, independent workforce. Companies leveraging the “sharing economy” are also offering professional services such as doctors, lawyers and consultants.
Of course, the downside of this “revolution” is the uncertainty imposed on the workforce and the loss of broadly-based subsidised benefits such as a social safety net. Public policy needs to respond to this shift by dismissing the assumption of a stable employer and career, on which social programmes have been designed.