Workforce Development

The Future of Work in the Sharing Economy

December 18, 2014

Above, watch the full discussion on the future of work in the sharing economy. 

From Uber’s ride-sharing to Taskrabbit’s services ranging from gift-wrapping to dog-walking, the sharing economy has become a major part of everyday American life. An estimated 80 million “sharers” in the US bought services from these companies last year, and 23 percent of Americans have partaken in at least one exchange using a sharing platform company in 2014.

Given the convenience and accessibility of goods and services these companies provide, the rise of the sharing economy has been a huge boon for consumers. However, from the worker’s perspective it raises many problems and instabilities. To address these issues and the future of the sharing economy, the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program recently hosted “The Future of Work in the Sharing Economy” as part of its Working in America series. Read below for a description of the sharing economy and the advantages and disadvantages for those working in it.

What is the “sharing economy?”

  • Generally organized around a technology platform that facilitates the exchange of goods, assets, and services between individuals across a varied and dynamic collection of sectors.
  • Related terms include “collaborative economy,” “gig economy,” “on-demand economy,” “collaborative consumption,” or “peer-to-peer economy.” There are differences among these ideas, but substantial overlap in concept.
  • Examples of companies that facilitate an exchange of property or space:
  • Examples of companies that facilitate exchanges of labor:
    • Uber and Lyft (get a ride or share a ride)
    • Taskrabbit (on-demand labor for a wide variety of tasks)
    • Handy (house cleaning and home repair)
    • Instacart (on-demand grocery-shopping services)

The Pluses and Minuses for Workers in the Sharing Economy


Watch Shelby Clark, executive director of Peers, explain how workers benefit from the sharing economy.

How to Improve the Sharing Economy for Workers

Taking into consideration the growing problems in the sharing economy, the panelists provided solutions to help workers make a sustainable living. Below, they suggest that workers in the sharing economy should have the rights to their records and ratings in case they are let go or are switching between task platforms.

In the video clip below, Wingham Rowan, director of Beyond Jobs, discusses how data is key to help workers navigate the sharing economy. With a greater access to data on where the jobs shortages are, the demand for certain jobs, etc., workers can make more profitable choices.