The term ‘gig-economy' is not new. The word ‘gig' in it was borrowed
from music professionals. In their jargon, a gig is a short-term engagement at a venue. Today, however, ‘gig' is very much ‘project' or ‘flex'
— with a primary emphasis on a one-off nature of a task that a gig-worker is hired to fulfill.‘The Future of Work'
(November 2017) by Fitzgerald et al. shares that ‘people have always worked gigs'. Yet it is specifically in our age, from 2005 onwards, that the gig-economy has grown considerably. The study cites the change in the US workforce. Namely, the share of those engaged in an income-generating side-hustle ‘rose from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2016'. At the same time, ‘the number of self-employed individuals … soared by over 19 percent from 2005 to 2015'. The study ‘Young people and the gig economy'
(May 2021) by Caro at al. shows that ‘the rates in countries that already have a greater tendency towards workers in this type of contractual arrangement also surged'. The statistics provided are the rates of 11.4% in Italy, 5.7% in Spain and 5.3% in the Netherlands, and 4.9% in the United Kingdom.
However, as Ms. Molly Turner puts it in the report, ‘today when most people refer to the gig economy, they’re specifically talking about new technology-enabled kinds of work'. Indeed, thanks to multiple well-developed digital mediums such as Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, Etsy and TaskRabbit, workers are connected to a wide pool of employers and common folk that look for fast solutions. These platforms also serve as a third party that keeps payment money safe while work is in progress and takes a cut of that money.
Ultimately, these tools served as a catalyst that boosted the growth of the gig-economy. Richard Heeks is cited to estimate
that around seventy million people have found work via a platform. Additional factors are in place that drove the new economy forward. One is that app-based platforms have considerably shortened the path between consumers and producers. Another contributing factor is that more and more people are attracted towards this unexplored way of employment. Some work gigs because it adds money to their full time salaries, while others choose to become independent workers because they are not able to find conventional full-time positions.
Apart from the now digitized employer-contractor relationship, two more additional factors played a significant role in the trend. The 2008 economic crisis
gave a first taste of holding multiple jobs to people where a regular income is supported with payments from flexible mini-jobs. In 12 years, the second factor came to be — COVID-19 significantly accelerated the gig economy
development as now it was gig-workers that delivered goods to home-bound consumers.
Today, the gig economy is defined as
a labor market constituted by freelance or part-time jobs (and workers). Unlike the traditional employment environment where positions are full time backed up by fixed contracts and salaries, gig workers perform on a short-term project basis and are
As any system, the gig-economy is made up of constituent parts. They are the following, according to the ‘Future of Work':
- Technology platform companies that have 4 distinct similarities: a. mediate direct money exchange between consumers and producers; b. flexible work schedules for gig-workers; c. online payments that platforms get a commission off of; d. always up-to-date review database for consumers and producers.
- Gig workers that are divided into two large groups: a. labor providers that have trouble finding regular employment due to lack of education and make a living out of their gigs; b. goods providers whose services are knowledge-based and who don’t depend on gigs entirely.
- Consumers, both physical persons and legal entities, that occasionally need independent contractors for one-off projects.