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What is the gig economy and why is it so controversial?



  A poster with the sentence
Artur Szczbylo / Shutterstock

The & # 39; gig economy & # 39; is a buzzword on the news and in the daily conversation. It refers to the increase in contract work ̵

1; or "performances" – that are not traditional jobs. Rides, food delivery, dog walks and writers are part of this economy.

An economy of contracted or independent work

The "gig economy" is a phenomenon that is determined by an increase in independent or contracted work. According to a Marist opinion poll, one fifth of US jobs are currently being contracted and half of US employees could do contract or freelance work over the next decade.

But what is an independent contractor? Think of construction, web design, freelance writing or Uber driving. Employees in these areas are not legally defined as & # 39; employees & # 39 ;. Instead, they work on a contract basis or have their own business as a self-employed person.

For some people, the increase in contract work is no surprise. We have spent the last decade recovering from a recession, so our workforce is larger than ten years ago. And of course there is internet. The internet made it super easy to find contracted work (especially short-term work), and the emergence of internet content such as YouTube videos (or the article you are reading now) has created a demand for writers, creatives, web designers and programmers.

But the impact of the internet has succeeded in reaching beyond just writing or repairing at home. It has been extended to traditionally low-income jobs with a low entry threshold, such as delivery driving or taxi driving.

And that is really what defines the gig economy: the emergence of companies such as Uber, Lyft, BiteSquad and Instacart who use contractors to send people around, deliver food and do the shopping. These companies have revolutionized low-income jobs, and that's why people talk so much about it. They also give us a glimpse of how the job economy can affect jobs in the future, assuming that other industries may switch to contract-based employment.

The gig economy is a lifeline for some families

  A few food delivery people in Italy. They work for the Italian equivalents of companies such as BiteSquad.
MikeDotta / Shutterstock

Contract work has its advantages. You can be figuratively & # 39; your own boss & # 39 ;, work according to your schedule or build a business based on your trading experience. You can even use outsourced work as a side job for difficult times or when you go to school busy.

Some (but not all) benefits are transferred to the contracted duties of Uber or Instacart, which have contributed to the expansion of the US workforce and to provide economic security for some US families.

Performances such as driving to Uber are great for people who cannot find traditional full-time employment due to inexperience, lack of education or disability. They are also great for people who need a flexible side job or a temporary full-time job because you can work as much or as little as you want.

This is the main reason why people talk about the gig economy so much. Contracted work with a low entry threshold is useful for low-income families, and it has helped to increase the workforce in ways that traditional employment cannot.

Of course, the Gig Economy is not perfect

  A car with the Uber sticker on its rear window.
Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock

The gig economy is useful for some families, but it has gotten a lot of pressure because of its mistakes.

Again, the greatest strength of Uber, Lyft, and Instacart is that they are flexible, low-income jobs with a low entry threshold. But that can also be seen as a mistake. Independent contractors do not have the rights of full-fledged employees, which means that the 15.8 million Americans who work full-time on "action" are not guaranteed a federal minimum wage or health insurance provided by the employer. They also have to pay the total wage costs for social security and Medicare. Laws designed to protect low-income employees only apply to jobs, not to gigs where you technically work for yourself, even if you only drive for Uber.

That's no problem if you work in a profession such as construction or freelance writing, where the skills you develop work can lead to better opportunities and financial security. But it is very important if you work full time on a low-income performance such as Uber, which does not offer opportunities for upward mobility. It is understandable that some people get stuck in these jobs, and they begin to feel exploited over time.

This is not the only issue that people have with the gig economy, but it is a common complaint that continues to push the words "handy economy" into the news. And of course there is no easy solution. Modern taxi and delivery services rely on contract work for their success, and some people like working in the system as it is. All in all, the words "gig economy" are used to describe an overall increase in contract work, with particular attention to new low-income jobs, such as driving for Uber or shopping for Instacart. These new jobs (and the gig economy as a whole) are often praised because they act as a financial lifeline, but they are also regularly criticized for being exploiting.


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