New Job Hunting Apps: Tools For The Modern Sweat Shop?

Erik Sherman
<b class="credit">GigwalkBob Bahramipour, CEO of Gigwalk</b>
GigwalkBob Bahramipour, CEO of Gigwalk

Looking for a job or some fast income on the side? You might be thinking of trying these new apps for job hunters. Sites like Gigwalk, Taskrabbit, oDesk and others sound appealing for both workers and employers. Unlike a Craigslist or other online classified listings, these apps (which are also sites) enable workers to connect with potential employers without filling in one long application after another (you just register once). Employers can get extra freelance help that they need without having to look for a full-time employee. Workers can even pick up gigs that match their schedule and location so they pick up extra cash exactly when and where they want it.

Given the big jump in temp and freelance work, these sites sound like they could be a bonanza for workers, as well as employers. But they come with lots of caveats (and catches) for workers, so much so we actually started to wonder if they're just enabling the modern sweat shops -- places where workers labor long hours, for little pay, no benefits and no security.

Low, low wages
Tasks for Gigwalk typically pay between $10 and $15, with wages running around $20 to $25 an hour "depending on how efficient the Gigwalker is and how good they get at the gig," CEO Bob Bahramipour told AOL Jobs. He says 60 percent of his site's users are using it "opportunistically." Some are in a "life transition" -- in between jobs, he says. Others have professional skills and are bringing in extra cash. The "average person is probably making between $200 and $300 a month," he admits.

Wasted time
Even simple jobs can take up a lot of time, he acknowledges. Fail to manage time and you could end up working for peanuts.

"A very simple job might pay $20: Go to a Wal-Mart and help set up a display. If [the worker is] brand new to [Gigwalk], we'll sometimes hear, 'I drove 3 hours to a Wal-Mart to do the job and I made $20 and it took half an hour, so I made $40 an hour but I don't know if it was worth it. Is it worth it for me to do this?' If I'm going to that Wal-Mart to shop anyway, then it's really worth it."

Efficiency is crucial.