Five years ago the government funded the launch of online marketplaces in which anyone could sell their spare hours to local employers. Amy Sutton, 24, from west London, is one of thousands of “slivers-of-time workers”. With a history of depression going back six years, she needed employment that would fit around the good days. At her mother’s urging she registered with an agency offering slivers-of-time work. She told its website her hourly rate, set her personal rules about the bookings she would do and then input some hours of availability for the following day.
A six-hour booking stuffing envelopes at her local council arrived in a text. Amy texted back her “Yes” code and other bookings followed; an hour of targeted public health outreach, a few hours for a charity. The system ensured that payment was transferred to her account the following week. As her confidence developed, she allowed the bookings to get longer. Now she is applying for a conventional job.
I have been programme director of slivers-of-time working (sliversoftime.info) since its inception. We have done okay, but we haven’t cracked the problem of labour market rigidity on anything like the scale intended.
There\’s a couple of things that would aid in developing this.
1) Abolish the current welfare system. Move to a citizen\’s basic income. Then there\’re none of the problems about losing benefits for a few hours work here or there. This is one of the major problems with such highly informal and part time employment in the formal economy. The marginal tax and benefit withdrawal rates.
2) Abolish all of the stupidities about \”rights\” for temporary workers. As with a citizen\’s basic income we won\’t need any such rights for anyone anyway this shouldn\’t be a problem.
You want to sell a few hours of your time? Go right ahead. You don\’t? Great, have at it. But we can only do this if we free the entire system from the assumption that you\’re either working or not working.
The administration of benefits tends to be a world in which people are expected either to have a job or to be on their way to one. There’s little comfort for those who want to find their way in the grey zone between the two.