Down with Upwork

Imagine that you are an IT worker at Disney, and have just been kicked to the curb. You were forced to “dig your own grave” and train a visa-worker from India to do your job. And you get an idea: I will make lemonade out of these lemons, become a freelancer, join the fabulous gig economy, be my own boss, work from home, blah, blah, blah. But you will soon find out that that door has also been slammed in your face thanks to freelancer websites like Upwork.com.

There doesn’t seem to be any research on the subject, but if you go and look at one of these websites you will quickly get the message: these are giant machines for the exportation of work to Asia.

If you sign up for one of these sites, and try to bid on a job, you will immediately find yourself up against many Asians bidding very low. Maybe you are a very skilled C++ programmer. Well guess what? There are thousands of Asian, Eastern European, Egyptian, etc. C++ programmers willing to work for $10 per hour.

Can you compete with them on price? Sure, if you live in the basement of your parents’ house. But not if you have a mortgage to pay. Imagine millions of Americans being forced to work for Asian rates, defaulting on loans, banks failing. Not a pretty picture.

And this is not just hyperbole; we have already become a nation of basement-dwellers. You have probably heard the recent news that 40% of young adults are still living with their parents – the highest rate since 1940. It is literally the Great Depression out there for young people, and freelancer websites are a large part of the cause.

While it feels wrong to restrict the Internet, I think it’s pretty obvious that a tariff needs to be put on these service imports. Some economists like to say that “housing IS the business cycle” and if we can’t get the kids out of the basement, how will they ever be able to buy houses of their own?

Back here, I wrote that we need to:

“…institute an across-the-board tariff on imports of goods and services. A protective tariff that will be high enough to bring back our factories from Mexico and China, our call centers from Eastern Europe, and our IT shops from India.”

And we need to expand that to include freelancing websites. Take a look at this ad that Upwork is running now:

The copy says “Find your perfect freelancer” but the graphic screams “Export your job to Asia.” And look at how small her desk is; just barley big enough to hold a laptop computer. I’ve never seen a desk that small in the USA, but have seen them in photos from Third World countries. I suppose they are needed in cramped living quarters. Also, look at the wall. It’s not stone, but it gives a prison-like impression, right? Is she working in a Foxconn style building with suicide nets? The whole thing screams: cheap foreign labor.

I am not criticizing Third World workers at all. My point is that the integration of cheap, foreign labor into our economy on a mass scale has caused mass poverty for Americans. Freelancer websites are engines of deflation for the USA.

Note: the Upwork ad reminded me of this demeaning female/cheap-labor ad from the 1970s, with a woman posed like a dog fetching a stick: