When 66-year-old Londoner Sylvia Haller was laid off in February, it wasn’t just her income that took a hit. It was her self-esteem.
“I had this feeling like, ‘I’m too old,’” she says. “‘Nobody wants to employ me anymore.’” She’d taken pride in her work installing home improvements for elderly and disabled residents in Hackney. Losing that job was “pretty traumatic”.
But Haller’s pension was small and she wasn’t ready to retire. So she pulled herself together and began wading through online classifieds. But, she says, “I didn’t feel confident enough to go and apply for anything.”
When a friend told her about TaskRabbit, an app that allows workers to hawk all kinds of services – hands-on jobs like assembling furniture or sillier tasks like waiting in line for novelty breakfast foods – she was intrigued. She set up an account on her phone – it took her a while to get the hang of the platform – and lined up customers for a variety of different jobs.
The ‘gig economy’ has exploded in recent years. Companies including the Berlin-based Delivery Hero, which hires drivers to drop off food across Europe, Asia and Latin America; Didi Chuxing, a carpooling app so powerful in China it toppled Uber’s attempt at expansion; and TaskRabbit are upending the relationship between employees and employers, and changing the composition of a day’s work.