With The fact that the users of this network

With the recent technological developments, the growth
of digital platforms was consequential and expected. This has had an impact on
the way we perceive the economy today. Digital firms usually base their
effectiveness on a peer-to-peer system, in fact they allow providers and
customers to make transactions without the need of a company owning physical
infrastructures (Van Alstyne, Parker, &
Choudary, 2016). The digital firm taken into consideration in this essay
will be TaskRabbit. This is a website founded in 2008 by Leah Busque, with the
aim of helping people with little free time complete errands by employing
part-timers, housewives or generally someone with more spare time to do the
tasks for them. The website, or mobile crowdwork market is meant to be as the
“middleman” in the transactions between seller and buyer of labor. We can state
that the supply side offers any kind of skill for a limitless variety of jobs,
from doing laundry to making summaries of a book, to being an online assistant.

The demand side, thus, is matched when the customers, searching for employers,
find the one that offers the skills required, had a good list of
recommendations, good reviews and a good grading. Both buyers and sellers have
profiles with personal information and pictures of themselves and undergo
extensive controls to verify their eligibility to work and insure safety for
both sides of the transaction.

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Additionally, an
interesting fact that can be looked at more in depth is that, to some extent,
the idea behind the website incentivizes the rise of freelancers’ numbers
thanks to the peer-to-peer approach. In fact people who might have poor
educational backgrounds and scarce money resources can use this platform to get
money on a short term basis. The fact that the users of this network don’t have
any kind of contractual stability could be a cause of possible future financial
insecurity. A problem to discuss is, thus, whether this new economy could help
people in economic difficulties overcome income instabilities or if in the long
run it would cause more uneven income distribution.

This essay is going to
focus on analyzing to what extent does TaskRabbit affect the freelancer
economy. The main question is going to be answered on multiple levels,
exploring different aspects connected to the freelancer community in America.

 More specifically, it will be investigated whether Digital markets like
this would alter inequality among the users, whether it offers them adequate
regulations and safety measures, whether the same laws as for normal workers
could be enforced onto this new kind of ‘casual workers’, and whether geography
and socioeconomic status matter in an efficient usage of the site.

            First, the main key terms will be defined, in the general
knowledge section, and then connected to the topic at hand. In this case it is
important to analyze the meaning of sharing economy and digital platform,
proceeding with the significance and definition of crowdsourcing as important
concept connected to the topic of digital firms that offer labor options, as
TaskRabbit does.  Secondly, in the discussion part, the problems presented
antecedently will be considered and debated, providing sources to prove the reliability
of the statements made. Thirdly there will be the limitations listed before the
hypothesis and finally the conclusion where the problems and the main question
of this paper will be answered as in depth as possible.

 

Theoretical Framework

 

general background

 

TaskRabbit is a digital platform that provides a
network where people find and offer job opportunities that tend to last on a
short-term basis. Basically it offers work for freelancers and ‘casual
workers’. Both the customers and the providers undertake tests to be allowed to
sign up in the website. After a task is done, both parties evaluate the
experience on the site where potential users are able to look at the review and decide.

It is an intuitive website that offers any kind of task solving, and is based
on the concept of crowdsourcing (Prassl, Risak, 2016).

Crowdsourcing is one of
the consequences of these kind of online markets and in particular of
TaskRabbit. It can be described as the act of contracting out jobs usually done
in organizations, or given out of businesses, to a much larger pool of future
and independent possible actors.  The concept of crowdsourcing relies on
the usage of internet to facilitate access to cheap factors of production
without the intervention of a physical company (Hammon, Hippner, 2012).

TaskRabbit can be
considered fairly successful, as many have started to use its service, and its
influence is growing in these years. It was founded with the purpose of
offering help with the simplest
chores
to neighbors that have really busy lives by othes. Thus, this virtual
organization, as many others, are increasing effectiveness and productivity,
with less if no transaction costs, matching supply and demand through a fast
and automatic network. In a way they can be considered substitution to the
general concept of company in the normal economy (Aloisi, 2016).

            Additionally,
the virtual firm’s contribution to the sharing economy, an relatively new
economic model based on the P2P (peer-to-peer) transactions of goods and
services through online networks, which most of the time are digital platforms
and mobile crowdsourcing markets, is debatable. In fact the word ‘sharing
economy’ itself is under criticism from many as it implies a willingness to
share and not to sell or acquire. Therefore, when it comes to platforms like
TaskRabbit that “match clients with workers”, these are subjected to
uncertainty to whether they are part of a sharing economy or not (Drahokoupil
& Jepsen, 2017).

 

Discussion

 

Firstly, the problem that has arisen from this
research was whether this kind of digital platforms, especially those that
offer labor, would be advantageous to the poor sector of society. If this is
the case it should help them find economic stability. However, this can also be
noted that it leads to more income inequality. this is due to the fact that
people using the website or the phone app can earn up to a certain amount of
money from solving errands, while the creators of such platforms and those in
charge of it are much more healthy. this creates an income gap (Schor, 2017).

Moreover geographical
location and socioeconomic status are influential factors that determine how
evenly distributed is the usage of TaskRabbit. A problem with this online labor
market is that it is not evenly accessible to everyone (Thebault-Spieker,
Terveen, Hecht, 2015). In fact people from lower socioeconomic classes won’t be
able to afford the use of TaskRabbit and the ‘taskers’ willing to accept jobs
in poor and dangerous neighborhoods are not many. This eventually leads to
higher prices for the services for the poorer. In this sense, TaskRabbit does
not help evening out inequalities among people. In contrast with the idea
behind it, it actually leads to biases based on geography and location  (Thebault-Spieker,
Terveen & Hecht, 2017).

However, it needs to be
taken into consideration the fact that, even though not everyone nowadays has
access to internet due to uneven distribution of income, for those who have
internet, the possibility to benefit from the advantages of digital agencies.

In fact on a much general note, digital agencies have better accessibility than
the conventional corporations and Governmental institutions (Jenkinson, 2017).

Specifically, it is easier to find jobs as freelancers on platforms like
TaskRabbit that through agencies, because there is a bigger pool of options and
requests.

Nonetheless, it is
interesting to understand whether gender and social status affects the
‘taskers’ and or the users of TaskRabbit. As stated before in the essay, users
of the platform are rated for their performances. those ratings and reviews are
useful for potential users to choose who to temporarily employ. TaskRabbit
declared, with other similar sites, to have as main goal to promote equality
among workforces. Nonetheless it is unclear whether this statement is true in
practice. Some researches state that inequality has not gotten better with the
widespread adoption of these platform as source of ’employment’ or of second
income. In fact gender and poverty are key determinants to establish if a
person is chosen for a job or not.  (Hannàk, Wagner, Garcia, Mislove,
Strohmaier & Wilson, 2017).       

As for gender equality,
it could be argued that digital platforms in general could  be relevant when it comes to empowering women
to spread their ideas. Unfortunately, this concept of freedom and empowerment
seems to still be more evident in cases where it is possible to share content
anonymously. TaskRabbit as many other digital platforms require profiles with
personal information shared with other users, as a security measure and women
could still be discriminated in search of specific jobs and opportunities (Fieseler,
Bucher & Hoffmann, 2017).

Undeniably though, the digital economy has helped women expand in working areas
thanks to the openness of the digital market to sign up and let people decide.  

            On another point, switching costs
for users of TaskRabbit are very low, which facilitates working and creates
less insecurity for the future. Switching costs are lowered thanks to the
openness of the platforms while competition increases also thanks to a more
free interactions between actors. On one hand switching costs has a positive
effect on the consumers as they can change from one platform to another without
many difficulties. On the other hand, it has also positive effects on the
platforms themselves in particular when they can create significant competitive
edges as first movers (following an increasing returns economical model,
typical of the new economies focused on high tech and digital markets) (Ruutu, Casey & Kotovirta, 2017)

Law is also a factor of concern that is
related to crowd work originated from digital firms. North America is the
country with the largest number of such firms in the world thus, it is natural
to concentrate on this area. With an increasing number of digital platforms, it
is more and more of concern the topic of laws and wages. A factor of confusion
is that the ‘taskers’ for example in TaskRabbit are not fully considered
workers or, at least, it is not very clear if they should be considered so or
not. This dilemma has been on the spotlight for quite some time (Liebman &
Lyubarsky, 2016). There are still regulatory gaps related to digital crowd work
that have not yet been defined in their entirety. Instead there are some
self-regulations (Malhotra & Van Alstyne, 2014). Having a system of self-regulations
is better than no regulation at all, however, it switches the legislation
power, to a certain extent, from the government side to a more individual and
independent party (Goldsby, Dornhaus, Kerr & Ofria, 2012). These kind of
limitations will be even more of a problem in future years, as digital work
will most certainly become more influential in the predicted economy. This is
due to technological developments and increasing accessibility to the web
(Cohen & Sundararajan, 2015).  If fact it is expected that by 2025,
540 million people will benefit from digital firms, as estimated in the McKinsey
Global Institute (Dobbs, Manyika, Woetzel, Chui & Lund, 2015). According to
another source, the online freelance market is becoming larger in size and
value than the typical freelance market (Kuek,
Paradi-Guilford, Fayomi, Imaizumi, Ipeirotis, 2015).

            The
essay is aiming to answer whether and how much digital platforms like
TaskRabbit affect the world of freelance. As this question is fairly broad and qualitative,
it was hard to gain precise answers, and, therefore, the paper is strictly a
literary research. It could be interesting to further the analysis of such
topic by conducting an in depth experimentation. This way the data could be
more reliable and quantitative. 

 

Hypothesis

 

As presented in the introduction the research
question, on which the essay is centered, asks what are the effects of digital
firms like TaskRabbit for the freelance community in America. The hypothesis
made assumes that the widespread availability of digital platforms like
TaskRabbit would deeply impact the freelance community, creating a much easier
and more cost effective way to connect demand with supply, without the need for
traditional physical mediation companies. Moreover, the effect of such firms
would have a relatively large impact on the society in general, including also
freelancers, as they offer a more open market, an almost endless pool of
resources, with a little costs.

 

Conclusion

 

The articulation of the case shows a variety of
scenarios and gaps that still exist and that could influence the long term
success of such platforms. Evaluating factors such as gender equality, income
distribution, SES (socioeconomic status), geography and law, created the
evidence that there are multiple ways the freelance community could be affected
by TaskRabbit. If at the beginning of the research the expected answer would
have been that the specific community is significantly affected by the
insurgence of such platforms, reasons such as geographical limitations,
inequality and SES, indicate that there are still compelling gaps and obstacles
that might call for a more moderate optimism. The freelance community in-fact
still suffers from some of the repercussions present in the ordinary market,
even though one of the key ideas behind these websites is to avoid such
problems and instead promote equality and accessibility.

In perspective, I reckon that the
digital firms like TaskRabbit will help boosting the poorer side of the
economy’s income, making significantly easier and faster to find short-term
jobs and opportunities. Even though no concrete and final answers exist yet to
the question of whether the digital firms workers should be considered real laborer
like the rest of the freelancers or not (this is unfortunately  a modern problem that has not yet been
solved), the number of digital casual workers  is expected to increase in the next few years.

This will eventually lead to more consideration to the topic and these workers
might have regulations and safety measures as other workers do. New regulations
will surely help with other yet unanswered questions explained in the section
above.

In conclusion, advancements in
technology, the internet becoming more widespread and more affordable to a
major percentage of the populations and potential changes and adjustments in
labor legislation, will create the ground for digital crowdsourcing platforms
to establish themselves thoroughly and deeply. 

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