The Gig is up: A Look at the Ups and Downs of the Gig Economy

gigeco

The Gig Economy is full or part-time work that is temporary, and is based on the needs of the employer or client. At its core are app-based platforms that dole out work in bits and pieces — making deliveries, driving passengers or cleaning homes — leading some to prefer the term “platform economy”. In recent years, it has moved into other sectors not traditionally associated with temporary or on-call work.

Proponents say the gig economy creates additional opportunity, while detractors claim gigs represent a specific type of exploitation.

What’s in it for the gig worker:

  • Can work when/where they want to, and for whom they wish to work
  • Can have clients worldwide and can command rates or terms they set themselves
  • Can outsource parts of their tasks to sub-contractors (other gig workers)
  • Can earn considerable amounts of extra income, while possibly maintaining a traditional job
  • Can start/stop gig work as needed (e.g. seasonal gig work)
  • No union fees

BUT…

  • Gig work typically offers no protection (like guaranteed minimum hourly wage, recourse against harassment or unfairness in relation to clients), benefits (health, sick days, holidays) or guaranteed fair pay for work produced
  • Flexibility can be compromised as the gig workers need to be available when the client needs them (i.e. they are on call at all times, and are disincentivised from turning away work as they may lose future calls)
  • Work may be sporadic at best
  • They need to do their own promotion and manage their own payroll/taxes/schedule
  • As independent (or quasi-independent) workers, they are in constant competition with other gig workers
  • No obvious potential for advancement and full-time work
  • Incur expenses for technology, equipment, repairs, maintenance, and training

“With nearly 60 percent of the jobs created across the country in 2015 categorized as self-employment, according to Statistics Canada, this segment of the population is poised only to grow, creating an urgent need to update employment legislation to reflect this reality.” – Jessica Barrett http://vanmag.com/city/gig-freelance-economy-changing-work/ 

What’s in it for the employer/client

  • Lower cost freelancers compared to local workers (gig workers often work out of their own home or car, use their own equipment and resources, provide their own childcare, etc.)
  • Working with multiple, specialized freelancers; a smaller but more focussed workforce
  • Hiring people in different time zones for around the clock work
  • The ability to scale easily as business grows, reducing risk
  • Little or no need to maintain employee loyalty through raises or team building
  • You can shop around for the best temp/gig worker at the best rates
  • Save in terms of benefits (insurance, sick days, training) not offered

BUT…

  • There may be little interaction/meetings between regular employees and the temp workers, leading to miscommunication and a lack of loyalty to the hiring organization
  • Contracts will need to be developed and paperwork describing specific tasks will need to be drawn up on a regular basis
  • If your business really likes and needs the work the gig worker is providing (as it may be very specific to your organization’s needs), as consultants/contractors, they are free to charge more and even reject full-time regular employee status at your organization

The gig economy is not for everyone and increasingly, issues of abuse and the negative side of this with ad-hoc economy are in the news. Gig workers tend to be happiest when working with a few well-known, long-term clients where trust is mutual. Laws are being developed to protect gig workers, but without a defined lobby or union, and with the wide range of situations within the unregulated gig economy, this may take a very long time.

Further reading

 

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