What is the Gig Economy? What are the risks to our quality of life?
23 October 2019
A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a gig economy has begun. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors.
Gigging, Job-Hopping, and Cloud-Based Employment
The future of work is clouded by two conflicting visions.
(1) One is a world with a laptop and a sea view, where highly-skilled work is independent from any particular location.
(2) The other is a nightmare of drudgery, where hours are spent plodding the corridors of a giant warehouse pushing a trolley with a robotic earpiece telling us to walk further and faster.
The Human Cloud and Gigging
Gigging has its roots in the 1920s jazz scene. McKinsey, calls gigging "contingent work that is transacted on a digital marketplace."
The gig economy is the beginning of "the human cloud" where employers will be able to overcome skills shortages and free themselves from the limitations of location.
MBAandCompany (CEO Daniel Callaghan) recently told the Financial Times: "You can now get whoever you want, whenever you want, exactly how you want it," he says. "And because they’re not employees you don’t have to deal with employment hassles and regulations."
The Gig Economy Has Arrived
The prominence of companies like Uber, whose fleet of drivers are not employees, and the giant digital lawn sale that is Etsy, where people can turn handicraft hobbies into a side income, has caught the public imagination.
The gig economy has already featured in the US election cycle with Democrats attacking it from the left and Republicans lauding it from the right.
When announcing its new Flex crowdsourced delivery program, an Amazon exec said, "There is a tremendous population of people who want to work in an on-demand fashion". On-demand jobs offer companies all the benefits of employees without any of the costs of paying benefits for them, are just the best work that desperate people can find.
The Gig Economy Will Accelerate
The gig economy is in its infancy and that its growth won’t be linear and scale up like any disruptive innovation. The human cloud platform took 10 years to reach $1bn revenues but expects to grow those ten-fold in the next six years.
The risk of the gig economy, Arun Sundararajan, professor at New York University's School of Business writes, is that "we might devolve into a society in which the on-demand many end up serving the privileged few."
The gig economy may become a footnote in business history . Gartner predicts, autonomous software agents and self-driving cars will take over more and more of these kinds of jobs.