Sharing economy as a lifesaver

Medecci Lineil

There will be growing pains along the way — and more horror stories, no doubt — but the sharing economy is here to stay.

Glenn Carter, English actor

As I got into my Grab to an appointment the other day, I complimented my driver on his punctuality. As our conversation progressed, I learned he was a despatch rider but currently out of work.

He was hoping to transition out of the delivery world and into hair salon as a hairstylist. But while he was mapping out his plan of execution, Grab was providing him with a temporary job where he was able to make money.

The sharing economy has been one of the most ground-breaking market creations in our modern time even though its concept is quite simple.

If you own a car, you can earn money as a driver. If you have an apartment or home, you can earn money renting out the space. If you have property or a skill that is in demand by another consumer, you have the ability to earn money. And for those in between jobs or trying to figure out their next employment move, the sharing economy can be a lifesaver.

My story is far from an isolated instance. A friend shared a similar story about his pleasure of riding with a driver who was currently out of work while he was recovering from surgery.

The surgery itself was minor and still allowed for the operation of a vehicle. And even though his job would be waiting for him when he was healed, he had used up all his paid time off, and was not making money during the recovery process.

He was earning money while avoiding the stir-crazy feelings of being trapped inside his house while he healed.

I also remember another young Grab driver who had moved to Kuching from Sarikei and was trying to start his own plumbing services. Not only did Grab allow him to pay his bills while he was starting his business, it also helped him network.

Each of his passengers was given a business card and all kinds of water filter/purifier promotional materials which he would personally deliver and install for free.

The same thing happened with the hairstylist. We exchanged contact details and we both benefitted: I found a new hairstylist and he gained a new client.

There are dozens of these stories, as I am sure many of you could tell as well. Ridesharing helped all these drivers provide for their wellbeing and even helped some build their businesses. But ridesharing is only one small sector in the broader sharing economy.

The sharing economy is not limited to cars. There are many who find themselves unemployed without either a car or a rentable living space, but they may have some sort of skills.

Smartphone apps like Facebook allow users to sell their own labour. If you possess the muscles needed to move boxes all day, you can become a mover. If you are capable of mowing a lawn, you can find someone in need of a yard trimming.

For those in the beauty or wellness world, there are also advertising pages on social media that will connect cosmetologists to clients, something that many of my former schoolmates do in their free time.

The possibilities are almost limitless. And while these are not the most glamorous of tasks, continuing to take on jobs and working during times of unemployment can have a positive psychological impact.

While I was in the Grab, the driver politely asked me if I would like to request music, he played whatever I want to listen. I am accustomed to Grab drivers asking me questions, but the music play was new.

Why does this small detail matter? Because there was a sense of pride in his voice. He may not be doing what he had hoped with his career, at least not yet, but staying in the workforce via the sharing economy did more than just bring in income: it maintained dignity.

He wanted to do the best job possible because he took pride in his work.

When that daily opportunity to take pride in creation is removed by a whole lot of bureaucracy because a person is unemployed, especially for longer periods of time, there are psychological impacts that extend far beyond the stress that comes with money problems. In fact, depression and unemployment are an ominous duo.

I was unemployed for months after I quit my dream job in Kuala Lumpur and returned home. From my personal experience, when you are isolated away from people, you are left with your own thoughts.

In times of trial, like unemployment, this allows the worst thoughts to come to mind. Many even begin doubting their abilities, which then send them into a depression spiral, making the job hunt increasingly more difficult.

Today the sharing economy is a great way to not only socialise with other humans, but can also be beneficial for preparing for a new job.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.

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