The Gig Economy – Part 1
In a world where change is taking place faster than you can tweet about it, you’ve become accustomed to trends that come and pass before you’ve even finished your morning coffee. You would then be forgiven for being a little sceptical about a change so significant, it threatened to alter the very way in which you viewed the labour market. This new trend taking over the corporate world is the gig economy. Oxford Dictionary defines it as: A labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. The phrase “gig economy” was coined at the height of the financial crisis in early 2009, when the unemployed made a living by working several part-time jobs, or gigging, wherever they could.
In recent years, companies like Uber and Airbnb have spearheaded the rise of the gig economy with business models that are almost entirely reliant on the input of freelancers who then make up the majority of their workforce. Major corporates have also bought into the trend, outsourcing jobs to “giggers” who are contracted only the duration of a specific project thereafter, the gigger seeks a new gig and the corporate new giggers.
With the rapid growth of gigging however, comes an equal dose of scepticism. Many industry analysts have voiced their concern at the gig economy model. One of the biggest issues raised by critics, is to do with the contractual classification freelancers and the benefits, or lack thereof, that they are entitled to. As freelancers, companies are not legally entitled to provide them with employee benefits such as Healthcare provisions and retirement fund contributions. This raises an ethical dilemma in certain situations where, for example, Uber would have no obligation to a driver who worked full-time hours, comparable to any regular contracted employee, merely as per the classification of his/her contract.
Nonetheless, the industry is expected to keep growing. It is estimated that about 40% of the population will be in the gig economy by 2030. And why not? In a world lead by millennials with ever-shrinking attention spans and access to more opportunities than ever before, maybe the current labour market status quo of long term contracts is outdated. The gig economy may suffer some growing pains, but don’t mistake momentary incapability for indefinite incapacity. Nothing is certain but the last thing you want is to be on the wrong side of history. In 1946, American film producer and studio exec, Darryl Zanuck famously remarked that TV won’t last because people would, “soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night”. I can’t vouch for everyone, but let’s just say, this article would’ve been finished a lot quicker had he been right about that one.
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