My name’s Wingham Rowan. I ran British government programs that created a new kind of labour platform for all sorts of gig work. That platform has now also been launched by public agencies in California. And for 25 years, I’ve been tracking the development of marketplaces — that’s any exchange where buyers and sellers meet to trade labour, finance, services or other essentials — and I’ve seen a dramatic split emerging.
At the top of the economy — inside these buildings — international financial institutions have built themselves markets that use new technologies to create incredible depth, breadth, actionable data, risk-mitigation tools, proactive opportunity-seeking facilities, and all for the tiniest charges.
These phenomenally powerful new markets underpin financialization — that’s the suck of money out of the mainstream economy into constant selling and reselling of financial assets.
And what about regular people over here? They’re also typically using new platforms to find economic opportunity. But the “markets” they’re using are too often skewed against the sellers.
Uber is the best known of new labour platforms. They’ve been reported cutting worker pay, intentionally misleading the workforce, distorting activity to undermine their competitors and systematically misleading regulators. For this service, Uber charges 30 percent or so of each worker’s earnings — or more.
Uber is not an outlier in today’s labour platforms. We have this astonishing disparity in today’s economies between incredibly powerful markets serving the top tiers and labour platforms serving the base of the economy that are primarily based around cutting labour costs and maximizing advantages for operators.
It’s a tragedy because modern marketplace technologies could do so much for regular people in uncertain times. Imagine a system of markets dedicated to unlocking your full economic potential with streams of data about what skills you could add to your portfolio most profitably. Imagine these markets have new financial functions that they incentivized investment in your development and interventions to support strugglers. And that they did all this for the tiniest overheads.
That’s not some utopian fantasy — it’s commercially and technologically viable. But the private sector can’t do it alone. It requires a policy that we call “modern markets for all.” Read about it in my CIGI policy brief.