Review: Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy by Trebor Scholz

Uberworked and Underpaid is an indepth look at the state of digital work place and practices, how it has enriched the few and impoverished many despite its promise of freedom and entrepreneurship for all.

Anyone with a stake or potential stake (work-wise) in today's gig economy. University or college students concerned about getting a job after school would also benefit from having a read.
People who get depressed easily should stay clear, there is plenty of sorrow and pessimism to drive a human insane here. There is also a lot of hope and proferred solutions, but the author is quite realistic about the state of jobs in the world at this time.

The author was thorough in researching various methods that "internet-age" companies like Uber, 99Deisgns, Upwork, Amazon, etc use in avoiding the payment of minimum wage to staff. More importantly, this book encourages the formation of staff-owned platforms, citing the examples of Loconomics and Stocksy, as one of the ways to circumvent the tyranny of low-pay or non-paying work in the name of "exposure" or freedom from traditional jobs.

"We are told that millennials want to take their clock back; they prefer to work at night, following their inner clock. Workers, stationed in a cafe, their living room, or a co-working space, can freely follow their interests and they even get to travel. There are, of course, significant advantages to not working in an office as nobody controls what you’re doing as long as the project gets done on time. In reality, however, this contingent work setup often leads to loneliness, fake flexibility, a lack of consistent opportunities to work, and longer work hours. What is marketed as flexibility and autonomy, at least for the most vulnerable workers, is in fact much closer to what Mike Davis calls 'forced entrepreneurialism.' On a Mechanical Turk coffee mug it reads: 'Why work if you can turk?' suggesting that crowdwork for Amazon does not even feel like work. And who would do it if it’d feel like exploitation? Net critic and consultant Clay Shirky suggested that much and the CEO of Amazon Mechanical Turk posed that workers can vote with their feet if they don’t approve of their pay; they have a choice.

"But for some workers toiling in the platform economy is about 'Zugzwang.' 'Zugzwang' in chess, means that no matter what the players ’ next move will be – and a move she has to make – there are not any good options."


Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy by Trebor Scholz is available to buy on all major online book stores.

Many thanks to Polity for review copy.

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