The Rise Of Micro-Labor

New websites putting up small jobs for bid, or micro-labor, are on the rise. Clean my compost bin. Buy my dog food. Job-hungry Americans are bidding low. Where does this go?

Micro-labor websites are taking off. (Photo illustration/WBUR)

Micro-labor websites are taking off. (Photo illustration/WBUR)

A lot of Americans need work. A lot of Americans need work done. A raft of new web sites is hooking them up around specific tasks that need doing. You want a pile of sand moved. You post a picture of that pile online.

I bid for the work. I’ll move that sand for thirty bucks. Or twenty. Or ten. Or five if I’m hungry enough. The upside: efficient connection of job and labor, and I make a buck. The downside: it’s work, but not a job. And the low bid that wins can be very low indeed.

This hour, On Point: the new era of bidding for work online. How hot it is. How low it can go.

-Tom Ashbrook


Scott Kirsner, writes the weekly”Innovation Economy” column and blog for the Boston Globe and

Eric Koester, founder and chief marketing officer/chief operating officer of Zaarly, a peer-to-peer mobile start up that allows people to bid for goods and services.

Harley Shaiken, professor at U.C. Berkeley who specializes in labor and the global economy.

John Horton, staff economist at oDesk Corporation, a online global marketplace that helps people hire, manage and pay remote freelancers or teams.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal “A new crop of websites and smartphone applications are allowing people to farm out chores to a growing army of temporary personal assistants. These micro-employees are taking the division of labor to once-unthinkable extremes.”

The Boston Globe “Here’s today’s column from the Boston Globe, about sites that enable small jobs to be distributed to a global network of freelancers. I’m publishing it here in its entirety because the Globe’s website seems to be down this morning.”

ABC News “One young woman, an experienced advertising director, stands in her kitchen preparing dinner for some college students. “

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