The term ‘gig’ has arrived from the music world, where performers book "gigs" that are single or short-term engagements at various venues. Since 2009, “gig economy” has been referred to as part-time freelance work.
The gig economy can be described as a labour market that heavily depends on temporary and part-time roles, staffed by independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time, permanent employees. Workers in the gig economy, known as gig workers, undertake short-term, temporary work for multiple clients. This work can take the form of project-based, hourly, or part-time arrangements, as well as on-going contracts or temporary positions.
It began with lower skilled workers but has now matured to the point where the very best talent is working on a 'gig', or freelance / contingent basis, because of the higher rates and better flexibility. It can range from driving for Uber or delivering food to writing code or freelance articles.
Gig economy and entrepreneurs
The gig economy offers various benefits to entrepreneurs that are not typically available in traditional employment. It encourages the emergence of new businesses by offering budding entrepreneurs a way to augment their income during the often-difficult early stages that start-ups typically encounter. Gig work also serves as a safety net in case ventures do not prosper.
The gig economy is particularly advantageous for small businesses as they can avoid the expenses associated with providing office space, equipment, and benefits. They can also save time and money by bypassing the need to set up healthcare or HR procedures, opting to hire individuals on an as-needed basis for specific tasks.
There has been a surge in micro-entrepreneurship due to gig economy, allowing individuals to establish and operate their businesses with minimal initial capita. This emerging economy offers fresh opportunities and platforms that streamline the process of showcasing one's skills and services to a global audience while independently managing their businesses.
Now, the advantages of the gig economy extend beyond entrepreneurs and small businesses, benefiting numerous individuals possessing the skills and services in demand in the market.
Benefits of gig economy for workers are: -
Flexibility of Work - Workers operating in the gig economy are allowed to work any of the hours they desire. In most cases, a task will be given to a worker with an end date, but when they work on it is completely up to their discourse.
Greater Independence – Gig workers have the independence to execute work based on their expertise and are trusted for it. They have the freedom to accept or reject new work based on one’s own convenience and availability, which directly impacts their work-life balance. This also increases work satisfaction as, while there is frequently lesser guidance, there is also rarely any micromanagement.
A Wide Range of Jobs - The old office problem of monotony is rare in gig work. A wide variety of tasks and clients every day keeps the work interesting, helping workers be more enthusiastic and creative in their work.
Low commitment-If you are unsatisfied with the work, you are doing or have a difficult relationship with your current company, it's relatively straightforward to transition to a different job opportunity.
Remote working- If you’re not interested in office life, then gig economy might be for you as gig workers often have the flexibility to work from home. Or in the case of delivery drivers or similar roles, their work is not traditionally in an office.
Like a coin having two sides, there are drawbacks of gig economy alongside the advantages.
Challenges faced by workers in gig economy are: -
Income Insecurity – Lack of stable income often leads to financial uncertainty Fluctuating income makes it difficult for the individual to budget or plan for the future.
Lack of employment benefits – There’s no access to traditional employment benefits, like health insurance, retirement plans, and paid leave. One becomes vulnerable to financial hardship in case of illness, injury or other unforeseen circumstances.
Limited legal protection – Gig workers have limited legal protections and difficulty in accessing workers' rights, such as protection against discrimination, harassment, or unfair termination. There’s difficulty addressing grievances or disputes due to the absence of formal employer-employee relationships.
Unclear worker classification- Determining the employment status and classification of gig workers can be uncertain and complex.
Lack of Social Support and Connection- Working independently without the social connections found in traditional workplace, can be isolating. Lack of social support can lead to feelings of loneliness and a sense of disconnection from colleagues and the broader work community.
Limited Career Growth Opportunities- Gig workers often take on short-term, project-based work, which may not allow for long-term career development or the acquisition of specialized skills. This can hinder their professional growth and limit their ability to transition into higher-paying roles.
Role of technology in gig world
Technology has played a pivotal role in the growth of the gig economy. As the internet gained widespread acceptance as a mass communication tool, freelance work became more common. With even basic technologies like email and instant messaging, people realized they could feasibly do work remotely from anywhere This, in turn, enabled companies to hire people for short-term without having to bring them into the fold of the physical office.
Emergence of Gig Platforms: The emergence of platforms designed specifically to connect people with others who might require their products or services played a major role. But the big push came from platforms designed to help skilled or passionate people find gigs; for example, through Air Gigs, vocalists and musicians can find opportunities to record vocals for paying clients. Ridesharing apps like Uber allowed drivers to set their own hours and pick up fares as they see fit. Plenty of other platforms like Fiverr establish a miscellaneous freelance marketplace, where people can provide almost any service for a fixed fee.
Productivity and Compliance: Technology not only enabled gig platforms to increase productivity and compliance but also helped simplify operations such as tracking, monitoring, managing, and paying the gig partners for the work done
Matching Jobs: For gig partners, technology infrastructure has made finding work easier, seamless, and transparent in terms of growth & remuneration. To enhance the experience for these gig partners, platforms match jobs based on their skills and location. Additionally, the platforms regularly provide in-app training, updates on task completion, and payment, simplifying processes with technology integration.
Automation and Efficiency: Enterprises have been empowered by technology to achieve their goals, scale their operations, and extend their reach. Without a tech-enabled system in place, it can be difficult to on board and manage a workforce, along with their outcomes. Hence, a tech-led gig platform ensures that work is fulfilled flawlessly and enhances overall efficiency due to automation & smart-assist features built into the platform.
Technology has fundamentally changed and empowered the gig economy. As new technologies and possibilities emerge, we can expect this world of work to expand even further
The gig economy has gained significant momentum, reshaped the world of work and offered newfound flexibility and opportunities. It has the potential to foster a new era of entrepreneurship, empowering individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, transforming the workforce, and driving economic growth. As its influence grows, it is crucial for stakeholders, including governments, businesses and workers, to collaborate in crafting balanced regulations that safeguard the rights and well-being of gig workers while fostering innovation and adaptability. By addressing regulatory challenges and committing to responsible practices, we can shape a future where the gig economy is a force for positive change in the modern workforce.