Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Last month, I faced a doggy dilemma. My daughters and I unexpectedly had to fly to Denver for a long time, leaving our beloved golden retriever in New York.

We were desperate to have Charlie with us. After all, pets are a comfort in times of stress and it was unfortunately one of those times. But I did not like returning to New York to make the 26-hour ride to transport her to Denver and there were no sensible flight options.

“Get someone else to run her. There has to be an application for that, ”a friend suggested. I was dubious: sure, I use apps to book taxis, dinners and flights, but it never occurred to me that I could transport a dog on short notice, like a pizza.

But I typed it properly in my phone, discovered a website called CitizenShipper, and three days – and $ 825 – Charlie arrived in Denver in the car of a dog-loving millennial couple. My daughters were so delighted that I swallowed the steep cost (and additional $ 159 brokerage fee).

The dog movers were also delighted. They cheerfully explained that they had started performing this service as an occasional side issue, but demand rose so dramatically during the pandemic that dog sledding was now their main source of income.

“We love it,” said Robert, the manager, explaining that his wife gave birth six months ago and they discovered that driving dogs around is a way for both of them to spend quality time with their new offspring. by spending while also being paid.

This is a trivial story. But it underscores a key theme of our time: digitization and the pandemic are turning many of us into the cyber equivalent of hunter-gatherers, looking for revenue and services in new ways.

Think about it. In recent years, there has been a flurry of debate over how digitalisation is wiping out jobs. No wonder: a widely quoted 2013 Oxford Martin School Study suggested that as many as half of existing roles could be automated over the next few decades.

This sounds scary. But what is often ignored is that digitization creates jobs also. The speed and scale are difficult to measure: while the jobs that are eliminated tend to be attached to settings (and therefore easy to count), the jobs that are created are often “gig” jobs, or those that are linked is to non-traditional, short-term and contract work.

But the data available is striking. A Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making by the Federal Reserve found that, in 2020-21, 27 percent of adults earned money from performances and 8 percent were regular performance workers, who spent 20 or more hours on performances.

Most of these workers are young, relatively poor and non-white. A survey issued by Pew Research Center last month, for example, found that while 30 percent of those under 30 did work, in older age groups it was half that number. And while 30 percent of Hispanics have performed, far fewer have white Americans. Most importantly, only one-tenth of wealthy Americans are concert workers, compared to a quarter of those who are poorer.

The focus of such work varies as the demand for services shifts: during the pandemic, a quarter of all gig workers increased their income, while another quarter decreased it. But no one expects such performances to disappear anytime soon; on the contrary, the pandemic has almost certainly left it deeply rooted.

Is that a good thing? Left-wing economists may shout “no”, as actions are not only uncertain and lacking in benefits, but are often less well compensated than traditional forms of employment.

However, many free market economists may argue that concert work’s lack of solid structure is exactly what makes it so vibrant and innovative, and thus is able to adapt to changing demand patterns. Some gig workers will also say they like the freedom it can bring, if they are fairly compensated and treated by the technology platforms (which are a big “axis”).

As the moral debate surrounding performances continues, it is interesting to consider our concept of work. In the 20th century, it was generally accepted that a job was separate from one’s home and social life; temporal and spatial boundaries exist between work and everything else.

However, as the evolutionary anthropologist Joseph Henrich observed, many traits that Westerners consider normal are actually abnormal by the broader standards of history: hunter-gatherers, peasants, and almost anyone else outside the modern Western world had fluid boundaries between work and family. To them, it’s the idea of ​​”nine-to-five” that seems strange.

What the 21st century gig economy is doing is essentially throwing people back into the future. For someone like Robert, with a dog and baby in the car, the boundaries between home and work, or family and colleagues, became fluid. The rise of homework during the pandemic further blurred them, even for people doing more traditional forms of work. This may sound scary. But for some people – and their dogs – it was liberating too.

Follow Gillian on Twitter @gilliantett and email her at

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