Just as I was writing about a possible future development in the gig economy, Jinn (a leading player) is going in different directions.
The company has decided to focus solely on London, halting operations in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds (as of the 25th of July). It doesn’t seem clear but the company also seems to have stopped in Spain (Barcelona and Madrid), too. Citing the search for profitability, a co-founder said that because over 90% of orders come from London, operations in other areas would be ‘paused’ until September. Interestingly, the option to apply for work in these others cities is still available on the website, even nearly one week after the announcement.
Whilst this development shows a lot about the competitiveness of operating in the gig economy, it also highlights the associated insecurity for workers of the gig economy. Whilst you could be fired in any career or workplace (as many in Jinn’s offices have reported), to have it done so bluntly as a text is particularly telling. Also, by reminding individuals that Jinn will return in September, it suggests the company believes they can easily fire and hire riders as and when they see fit. Whilst the gig economy is often depicted and advertised as flexible, you obviously cannot utilise this benefit if operations suddenly cease.
However, it is all too easy to paint this as representing the job insecurity of the gig economy and leave it there. This insecurity is mitigated by the presence of numerous other platforms that are always open for hiring. Riders that have been affected by this, will hopefully seize the opportunity to join a (hopefully) more ‘stable’ platform like UberEATS or Deliveroo. Whilst these companies aren’t perfect examples of a gig economy company (and what that represents is up for debate), they’re larger players in the scene and so shouldn’t be ‘pausing’ operations in cities any time soon. Some riders already adopt this tactic, and are registered for multiple platforms, sometimes working simultaneously. Therefore, this change might represent far less a disruption of riders’ lives than believed. If riders do flock from Jinn to other companies, this might make them reluctant to re-register when Jinn returns, punishing the company in September.
However, it’s still more than just an inconvenience for riders. If individuals are only registered to one platform (like I am), the process of registering and beginning can take time away from earning, time that isn’t a luxury for many. My entire onboarding process took around two weeks (see here and here for details), meaning riders could be left with without any pay for one-three weeks. This disruption could even be longer, because of being paid every two weeks. Again, this is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouth of former Jinn riders, making rehiring even more difficult.
It awaits to be seen whether this tactic by Jinn will be profitable for the business and what the reaction of riders is (for both solo- and multi-platform deliverers). We might never know the true effect; the gig economy moves at a quick pace and I’m sure there will be another disruptive development soon.