With housing prices becoming increasing high and millennials being priced out of the property market, a lot of commentators have noted that we are heading towards a new way of working in order to generate multiple income streams- the gig economy. But what exactly does this phrase mean? What are the implications of this new mode of work?
According to the BBC, the “gig economy” is a phrase that is often used to describe a labour market “characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs”. In this sense, it is a new form of work whereby people take on multiple jobs in order to earn a stream of income that is sustainable but flexible at the same time. On one hand, this has it’s advantages. It allows workers to be more versatile and flexible in terms of their field of work, working hours and workload. Many contracts under the gig economy offers the workers more independence and scope to complete the work in ways they see fit. Workers are also able to charge hourly rates that they set themselves, meaning that they are able to control their working hours and get paid for any overtime work. It is estimated that in the UK, over 5 million workers engage in the gig economy in order to sustain a living.
On the other hand, critics of the gig economy note that it can be a form of exploitation with very low amounts of worker protection. Workers are essentially unprotected from demanding employers and do not receive benefits such as pensions, a stable wage and healthcare support. Some critics have compared the nature of jobs under the gig economy to zero-hour contracts where employers have no obligations to provide payment for minimum working hours, which undermines an employee’s job security. Additionally, this type of economy can cause workers to suffer from burnout as many individuals take on multiple (and often stressful) jobs at once.
With a new way of working comes along myriad opportunities and challenges. Regardless of the pros and cons of the gig economy, it seems that it is here to stay and will become an integral part of many millennials’ lives.