Yes, it can be done. And I don’t want them to be afraid. The biggest reason we need to do belly dance isn’t because it’s fashionable or because it’s easy. It’s because we can’t make the world a better place without dance.”
“I will work for free,” said a young man on a tour bus in China, at a time when wages there are falling behind in the world’s largest democracy. At the same time, wages in many developing countries were soaring last year, according to a survey by Credit Suisse, a global bank.
It was an astonishing result, which could mean economic development in India and others around the world is now being driven almost entirely by cheap labour, especially in China. What happens next is a subject that has intrigued economists at a number of institutions: the rise of what economists call “the gig economy”, with people working without formal qualifications or even having a formal qualification, working their way up the value chain, often without any job safety regulation and with only a rudimentary safety plan.
The gig economy is being touted as a potential antidote to economic stagnation.
“The gig economy is essentially new economies in which people work in a market economy,” said Robert Shapiro, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis and a former governor of Bank of Canada, and now a senior fellow at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Social Studies. “One of the interesting things about it is that it looks like more people are part of them.”
Mr Shapiro and others call it a “disruptive process”, although Mr Shapiro doubts whether it can ever be fully controlled. “Are you going to have a company that says ‘we’ll hire anyone’, and they really want a person with no technical skills to do a job? It has the potential to disrupt economies just like a firm can, when workers are replaced, so the question is what can we do to make sure the displaced workers are not totally unemployable?” he added.
Mr Shapiro’s research shows that the gig economy is currently taking advantage of what economists refer to as asymmetric information, which is the tendency to believe one’s own words, and to trust what others say, when that opinion is at odds with other people’s. “By the same token, the way we talk about what might go wrong in the gig economy is that they aren’t sustainable. There’s this asymmetrical information problem that seems to be a really big issue for the current set of innovations.”
The last of the