Around the Institute

The Future of Work in the Sharing Economy

December 2, 2014

The sharing economy has gained traction and attention in the last few years. Also known as the “gig economy,” “consumer-to-consumer sharing,” and “peer-to-peer marketplaces,” the term “sharing economy” is used to describe a wide variety of exchanges between people, including property, skills, labor, or space. By using an online platform to connect users and providers, this system puts a modern spin on old-fashioned bartering, swapping, borrowing, and trading — and greatly expands the scope and scale of potential exchanges.

Sharing economy companies include Airbnb (rent a room or your house), Uber (provide rides), TaskRabbit (do chores for others), and Instacart (be a personal grocery shopper), to name a few. There were an estimated 80 million sharers in the United States in 2013 – although that included 33 million “resharers,” those who buy and/or sell pre-owned goods online at sites like Craigslist (Vision Critical and Crowd Companies).

Revenue estimates vary from $3.5 billion in the U.S. in 2013 (Forbes) to $335 billion globally in 2025 (PricewaterhouseCoopers). Many have touted this system’s benefits for consumers, including convenient and affordable services and shared goods. But what are the benefits — and the downsides — of the sharing economy for the workers who provide the services? What is the influence of the sharing economy on the future of work? What are the implications for public policy and business practice?

Shelby Clark, executive director, Peers
Sarah Kessler, reporter, Fast Company
Wingham Rowan, director, Beyond Jobs
Steven Strauss, visiting professor, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University

Moderated By:
Catherine Rampell, opinion writer, The Washington Post