The gig economy is the labor market where jobs are characterized by short-term or freelance contracts instead of permanent jobs. Temporary positions are normal and organizations usually contract independent workers for short-term employment. Currently, some of the largest companies in the world are the drivers of the gig economy, Uber being one of, if not, the largest company. However, while to some, what is associated with the gig economy is seen as an advantage, to others it may not be.
Those who support the economy argue that it opens up opportunities in the job market to those who previously would not have benefitted. Flexible working hours are more common, so the single mother on welfare, who would previously not have been able to supplement her government credits with employment, would now have the opportunity to. Unemployed people would have more available opportunities; while the employers would have lower risk and be more will to give them a chance thanks to their flexibility and the reduced contracts available. A good work-life balance is becoming more important during a period where people are working longer hours than ever. Flexible working hours go someway to appeasing these people.
Independent workers have increased satisfaction with their lives than traditional workers. They cite improved control over their working hours and the opportunity to be their own boss. Freelancers could provide the same level of work as regular office workers, for example, and still be able to communicate with those in the organization via video conferencing. Room scheduling software can be used in or out of office to book meeting space where collaborations can occur between in-house staff, and freelancers.
A common concern amongst many employed in the gig economy, is the lack of job security and lower levels of income. There is no sick pay, so if you are ill, you are not compensated. This sort of absenteeism could even affect your future employment with companies. Zero hour contract workers in the UK do not benefit from the same rights and protections as employed workers. They can miss out on health benefits and sick pay. It has been pointed out that the increase in short-term contracts is not due to more people wanted to become entrepreneurs and work under their terms, but because they don’t have much of an option. There are record numbers of students graduating from university, meaning increased competition in the job market. Whilst this is good news for employers looking for the most talented and capable staff, this can leave job hunters in the vulnerable position where they have no choice but to accept less than ideal contract conditions.
While economic opportunities have increased with a rise in the gig economy, it does leave many employees accepting precarious working contracts. Ultimately it is up to the employee to choose their preference and what best suits them – a short-term contract with much flexibility, or a long-term contract with better salary and job security. Hopefully, in future there will be improved conditions for people to work flexibly, without negatively affecting a business’ ability to offer more job opportunities.