Sharing Economy: Nice, But Does It Create Real Jobs?

‘No tourist flats’ banners hang from a balcony. Barcelona city hall said it would fine Airbnb and rival HomeAway 600,000 euros each for marketing lodgings that lacked permits to host tourists. (PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in September of 2004, then-Vice President Dick Cheney tried to make light of dismal economic indicators by announcing that there were indeed hundreds of thousands of people working who were not being reflected in the nation’s employment numbers.

« Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay, » he told voters during that year’s election campaign. « That’s a source that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. »

Cheney was roundly ridiculed and lambasted for insensitivity at the time, but the ensuing decade has also proved him prescient. By the end of 2015 eBay had been in operation for two decades and reported a merchandise volume of nearly $22 billion, revenue of $2.3 billion, and an active buyer base that increased 5% year on year to 162 million users.

Monetizing idle or unwanted goods and services has since become mainstream: Airbnb, Uber, BlaBlaCar and more are now the basis of what we have come to call the “sharing” or “collaborative” economy. And it is big business.