ANDY JACKSON / STUFF
As independent contractors, Uber drivers are part of the gaming economy.
OPINION: The gaming economy is often presented as the path to freedom from 9 to 5 medications most of us call a work day. But that's a lie.
The business cycle is a race to the bottom that will accelerate social and economic inequalities while enriching a handful of technological titans. The gaming economy is all about exploitation.
New Zealand is well behind most developed countries when they employ short-term contracts and freelance work that turn employees into independent contractors, or gambling jobs.
Only 1 in 14 of us work with two jobs, which suggests that not many of us spend free time being an Uber driver or charging lime scooters or responding to an Air Tasker ad.
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But the situation in the United States gives us a glimpse of a potential future here. Just over a third of the workforce – 55 million people – are gambling jobs.
Many of them may be completely satisfied with the situation. They are their own boss, free to fit their working life around their personal lives, and thus live a better life.
It is a unique advantage. That's the kind of benefit you will sacrifice a lot to have.
Which is fortunate because freelancers and independent contractors have to give up job security, vacation and sick pay, automatic KiwiSaver contributions, co-workers and all kinds of workers' rights.
Most of all, they have to give up a regular income.
This works for people with a very desirable skill set. But these talented people represent only a fraction of the gaming economy.
The concept of finance is dominated by low-quality, low-wage jobs such as running for Uber or a courier company.
The requirements for this type of work are low. A vehicle, lack of a criminal record, time to do it and you're in.
But low entry barriers bring wages and conditions down. It is not a fair deal even if those who are independent contractors volunteer to work.
The danger of freedom that independent contractor status gives workers, who are always young, was exposed last year when conditions that courier drivers put under the spotlight.
Fourteen hour days without a break, delivery increased and no sick leave was normal. Many said they were treated as "slaves".
It would be naive to think that things like Uber would be different. Or, in fact, some tech company that offers gaming jobs.
Although based on lofty ideals for making a better world, most people now act like any other corporation, pushing the law to the limit in pursuit of profits.
We should not let buzzwords like "concert" give rise to the belief that the opportunity to "make money" in our spare time is in our favor and not theirs.
Last Tuesday, California lawmakers passed a bill that paves the way for independent contract workers like Uber drivers to get vacation and sick pay.
The workers were "cheated," they said, and this was a law to prevent them from being cheated.
Predictably, the companies concentrated the law and claimed it would kill the gambling job.
It wouldn't be so terrible.