Commentary

Are Mobile Job Marketplaces What Workers Need?

From Uber to Postmates to TaskRabbit, mobile-based job marketplaces are having a moment.

They’re also highly controversial, given their knack for disrupting entrenched interests -- while it’s still anyone’s guess who they’ll ultimately benefit.

At the moment, it’s looking like consumers and the services themselves are reaping all the rewards, at the expense of increasingly commoditized and marginalized workers.  

However, many mobile marketplaces insist they’ve got workers’ backs. “People want to work on their own schedules -- and not just by driving a car,” according to Eddie Lou, co-­founder and CEO at Shiftgig.

Shiftgig says it affords people looking for extra shifts the freedom to work where, when and for whatever business they like. Last month alone, its marketplace generated over 15,000 shifts across the country.

To further bridge the divide between businesses and part­-time workers, Shiftgig just raised $22 million in a Series B round led by Renren Inc., along with Chicago Ventures, DRW Venture Capital, and GGV Capital.

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The startup certainly has room to grow. A majority of U.S. adults (58.7%) -- or 77.2 million -- are paid on an hourly basis but are not classified as independent freelancers, according to the most recent annual report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What about health insurance? At least according to GGV Capital Managing Partner Jeff Richards, the current state of insurance is actually making it harder for people to get the working hours they need.

“Hourly workers since Obamacare have been facing the reality that employers want to keep them to 29 hours a week, so they don’t have to pay health care,” Richards tells The Wall Street Journal.

Like a lot of mobile job marketplaces, therefore, Shiftgig sounds like a short-term fix to a long-term problem.

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