eBay for jobs: working and living in the 21st century with LaborX

Working and employment patterns have changed. If recruitment practices don’t, a lot of people will be left behind.

In the years after the Second World War, a pattern was assumed with regard to careers. You would select a profession — quite possibly one in which your family had already been active for generations — start at the bottom and work up. Many people only ever had one career, and the idea of a ‘job for life’ was normal. People would decide what to do, pay their dues in lower-earning roles, and be promoted up the ladder over the course of their lives. This progression often had little to do with ability, but was more a function of the passage of time and family circumstances. For example, men with wives and children were frequently paid more for the same job than those without. As markets go, it was an inefficient one.

From Boomers to bust

This picture is something of a caricature, but will certainly be recognisable to the Baby Boom generation. The next generation, who grew up in the 1980s and started accessing work in the late 1990s and early 2000s, found that life was much the same to start with — but was rapidly changing. University careers fairs provided a range of standard options; it wasn’t always easy to break out of that framework. As times changed, some people have remained within the old paradigm, whilst others have straddled the divide and picked up the cultural and work habits of the Millennial generation.

By the time those born in the closing years of 1990s began to hit the workforce, things had changed almost out of recognition from the Boomers’ way of life. Economic uncertainty prompted by the financial crisis had impacted hiring patterns. Meanwhile, the internet had radically altered almost every area of life. As a communications tool, the internet’s significance is as a means of accessing and distributing information. What it therefore enabled was the creation and facilitation of markets — of every kind — that would previously have been almost non-existent.

That had implications for the way we meet people, communicate and socialise, the way we consume entertainment and other media, the way we shop and, inevitably, the way we view work. We have Choice: the internet has consumerised every area of life, and our careers are no different. There is no longer such a thing as a job for life. Economically the idea is not viable any more, and culturally fewer and fewer people are willing to be constrained within one role or one company for the long term. The Labour Market has become precisely that: a free market for services, driven by the new choices we have in areas as diverse as migration, education and training, distribution of information and communication.

And yet, recruitment practices haven’t changed so much in the same period of time. The rise of the so-called ‘gig economy’ shows that the transition has started, but mainstream recruitment companies still rule the sector.

eBay for jobs

These companies will remain major players, due to their established network effect and the needs of larger corporations in sourcing long-term talent. What they cannot do effectively is serve the gig economy. For that, a new approach is needed.

The solution looks very much like a traditional e-commerce marketplace, with buyers and sellers — not of goods, like eBay, but of work. Also like eBay, a reputation system protects parties from fraud and wasted time in the absence of other information or personal knowledge. The market is able to perform as it should, matching employers with workers on a temporary basis (just as buyers and sellers are temporarily matched, for a single transaction — further business always depends on the willingness of the buyer to use the same seller again).

Unlike eBay, though, LaborX’s version of the online job’s marketplace is even more decentralised, with crypto payments and no gatekeepers to restrict opportunity. It is the free market, at its freest.

Millennial workers

LaborX and platforms like it will facilitate new working patterns that are culturally and economically suited to the labour landscape of the 21st century. Without the idea of a ‘job for life’, people are no longer so fundamentally defined by their careers and working choices. In fact, in a truly free labour market, a person can decide whether to work or not on a given day, depending on their personal circumstances, what work is available for them and what the market deems suitable remuneration.

Naturally, such a huge cultural and economic shift has negative as well as positive consequences. There is far less job security than there was 20 years ago. But the reality is that there is a jobs market out there: there is work that needs doing and no one to do it, and those who are looking for work but cannot find the right opportunities. Traditional recruitment cannot put those groups of people together. But LaborX can, and will, facilitating a global online labour marketplace that is fit for purpose.

For more information, visit www.ChronoBank.io.

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