The digital age has transformed the economic realities of the modern world in ways that few people could have imagined a mere two decades ago. Ecommerce, digital dispersal of information and wholly online services for both businesses and individuals have revolutionized the way that economic activity occurs in the 21st century. These changes, aside from just changing how consumers purchase goods and services, have also impacted how people work and earn their living. Among all of the other changes that have occurred, there is one that has taken the world of labor markets by storm: the gig economy.
Gig Economy: The Power of One
Put simply, the gig economy is the use of labor in the form of individual workers to accomplish individual tasks or gigs. This differs from the standard labor model in which workers are employed by a business entity and brought in to accomplish the same task on a set schedule regularly. A good example of this kind of gig work is driving as an independent contractor for a gig-based taxi service, such as Uber or Lyft. When doing this kind of a gig, a driver will decide when he or she wants to drive and pick his or her own customers. The act of picking fares up and driving them to their desired destination constitutes one gig, for which the driver will be paid by the connecting service provider.
Gig Economy vs. Traditional Employment
The stark differences between work in the gig economy and the holding of a more traditional job have brought the gig economy under sharp criticism in recent years. This kind of work, some argue, undermines the traditional idea of a stable, well-paying job. What the gig economy lacks in terms of connection to more traditional views on labor, however, it more than makes up for in offering flexibility to those who choose to participate in it. Since hours and the amount of time worked are entirely under the control of the individual worker, those who choose to join the gig economy can work as much or as little as they want. This facet of the gig economy also makes it more reactive to the shifting financial needs of its labor force, as workers who need a bit of extra money for unexpected expenses can easily make it without having to go through the difficult process of obtaining extra hours at a traditional place of employment.
The flexibility of the gig economy also allows workers to take on many different types of gigs according to their talents and skills. For example, someone may choose to take fares with a crowd-sourced taxi service like those discussed above one day, but decide the next day that he or she would rather take on freelance writing jobs or tasks as a handyman. Since many sectors of the economy are gradually becoming represented by the gig economy, the opportunities for workers are rapidly expanding. Many gig economy workers feel that this provides balance and keeps their work interesting, preventing them from suffering the burnout that many workers find themselves experiencing in more traditional jobs.
Gig Economy is Here to Stay
Though the gig economy is a relatively new phenomenon, it has already attracted many workers and is growing with each year that passes. Some statistics now suggest that by the year 2020, nearly 40 percent of the American workforce will earn part or all of its income in freelancing or independent contracting. The flexibility and versatility of this growing economic sector has helped to fuel this kind of rapid growth, especially as more traditional employers take on fewer and fewer new employees. As it grows, it also broadens out into new areas, creating more diverse opportunities for people with wide ranges of different skills.