The smart marketplace is here, and here to stay. With the tap of a thumb we can connect with a provider of space, a driver of a vehicle or a retailer who runs a virtual shop. Technological progress has changed the way people live and the way that they choose to work.
This ‘gig economy’ promotes itself as a free marketplace enabling people to achieve a better work/ life balance, yet it has been criticised for failing to provide basic workers rights. So what exactly does the gig economy mean for our modern workforce? And how can you be sure that it works in your favour?
The Modern Workforce
The millennial generation and those emerging a decade later, are looking for instant gratification in all aspects of their life. They get it with travel (Uber), takeaways (Deliveroo) and retail (Amazon same day delivery), but they are yet to truly get it with work.
For a modern workforce, the appeal of flexibility and freedom seems to outweigh the long term stability offered by full-time contracts with one employer. Whereas previously the emphasis was on what can you do for an employer, the attitude now has shifted to what an employer can do for you. As a result we’re seeing the rise of a ‘leapfrog’ culture, where workers jump from one job to the next, gig to gig, in order to acquire new skills and further develop their careers.
The benefits of this approach also extend to formerly marginalized workers such as stay-at-home parents, retirees and students. Now they have more options to work how they want, in order to generate extra income, develop skills, or even pursue a passion.
This is an emerging industry, and things are moving at rapid pace. As it stands the “trade off” between flexible working and employment benefits works for some and not others. For those workers that do choose to partake in this way of work, ensuring that they get their due protections and entitlements will be crucial.
This debate has finally reached Whitehall, where Theresa May has appointed Matthew Taylor, an ex-head of the Number 10 Policy Unit, to review legal rights for what Taylor describes as the ‘growing army of people working in new ways’. What the review will conclude is yet to be seen, but many in the space feel that current legislation is out of date.
In this shifting labour market, new specific for the space legislation needs to be cracked, to end the debate once and for all. Companies need to be open and transparent about what they offer and the workers also need to make sure that they fully understand the pros and cons of working in the gig economy.
The Future of Work
A recent Mckinsey report revealed that 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population in the United States and the EU-15, or up to 162 million individuals, engage in independent work. This report found that those who choose to work this way are happier than those in ‘traditional’ jobs.
However, we also know of course that there will be some instances where the trade off just doesn’t work for people. Not everyone will take to the gig economy. It is not reliable as a full income solution – but then was it ever intended to be? The on-demand landscape will cater to those businesses struggling to cope with seasonal demand, who one day find they just need an extra pair of hands. Or those weekend millionaires, who fall short the week before payday and may need a top up on their monthly income.
For those who want to work the more traditional nine to five for one employer, there will still be fixed term employment. There will always be the need for a core group of essential workers and management roles that, for reasons of quality and consistency, companies will want to fill with full-time employees. The gig economy however will provide options for those that would choose to live and to earn in a less traditional, more flexible way.