Thursday, 28 July 2016

Is social media ruining what it means to be an employee?

When I started parental leave with my second child it soon became clear how the social media landscape had changed since my first child. In just three short years, among many other things,  I found there were Facebook Groups for “{region } District Mums” for pretty much every area of Sydney. Great! What better way to meet mums with similar aged children that live nearby, and I did!

But it also exposed me to this whole sub-set of Facebook where people run Facebook Groups as a business by selling advertising space on their Facebook Groups, be it on a “business night” or a “pinned post” (surprising this works seeing that the pinned posts are hidden on mobile devices). It has also become popular to create a Facebook Group around a topic that your online business is somewhat linked to, so you can then use the group as a vehicle to passively influence and sell your services.

I have learnt the terms “bloglovin’”, “mumpreneur” and “stumbleupon”. Uber came out of seemingly nowhere with their ride sharing service, but I also discovered that there are sites like airtasker, and upwork where you can put something like “I need someone to help me move my lounge” and people (perhaps your neighbours!) will bid for the work. Sometimes people looking for a service don’t even go to these sites, but just post in the Facebook group. I’ve seen all sorts of things including someone posting "I want my bathroom cleaned today and I am willing to pay $40!" (and yes, they got a willing participant!)

So this led me to start considering… What is an employee these days?

In a world where you can sell any type of unskilled work by a click of the button, and it is your own labour & time, so no “minimum wage” or labour law, is it possible that the idea of an employee is coming to an end?
I know this may seem like crazy talk, and I’m no futurist (although I find them endlessly fascinating), but where the service sector in Australia is 70% of our GDP and employees 4 out of 5 Australians* this trend towards “community marketplaces” and “community commerce” has to make an impact…. Doesn’t it?

I’ve found myself in conversations with well educated, career women who have decided that they only need $xx per month to bring to the household budget each month, and so if that means moving away from the traditional employment model, then so be it.

I totally get that, and I’ve done those numbers too, but I also wonder about the bigger, longer term picture. Women already have less Superannuation than men, we already earn less money than our male counterparts. If women with children decide to move out of mainstream employment and into these “community marketplaces” what impact will that have on our society in 5, 10 or 20 years time?

I’m not saying this move to "social media commerce" and "community marketplaces" is a bad thing, but it may well be if Government Policy makers don’t catch up with this rapidly changing landscape of what we call employment.

What do you think? Have you used community marketplaces?

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