Gig work: second class work or first class choice?

Beth Furness

50.9% of the U.S. population will most probably be freelancing in 10 years time, according to Forbes, and the growth of the freelance workforce is 3 times faster than the traditional workforce, as noted by the CEO of Upwork. What does this tell us?

50.9% of the U.S. population will most probably be freelancing in 10 years time, according to Forbes, and the growth of the freelance workforce is 3 times faster than the traditional workforce, as noted by the CEO of Upwork. What does this tell us? That more and more qualified workers are choosing to work in the gig economy - and it is not because they cannot find a “permanent, respectable job” or because they are “just filling a gap until going back to a permanent position.” It is because they choose to work this way.

Why, you may wonder. Before analysing some of the reasons behind this choice, you should try and shed the prejudice linked with gig workers and realise that freelancers are highly qualified, usually tech educated and, in fact, freelancers are even most likely to participate in skills-related education in order to be up-to-date compared to non-freelancers - 55% of freelancers have reskilled in order to prepare for the future vs 30% of other workers, according to a 2017 study by Upwork. So, why does the modern workforce chooses freelancing over permanent positions?

  1. Technology, technology and technology.
    The booming of technology is the main reason behind the booming of the gig economy. New applications, innovative technologies, A.I. have made possible and facilitated globalisation and freelancing on a global scale - in a sense, one could say technology has democratised work. Wherever you are, whoever you are, you can work for people and businesses located wherever in the world depending on the nature of your services. Then, A.I. has made it possible to match the best workers with the best matching tasks in a few seconds. And everything is mobile - one can receive emails, have online meetings and be in constant communication via a smartphone on the go. Technology, in short, has made it possible and very easy and quick to do business online.

  2. The flexibility is sweet.
    Millennials appreciate the flexibility that technology offers them. By working remotely and not constrained by a 9 to 5 working week, they can have better control over their lives and achieve the work-life balance they want. Moreover, Millennials are a generation that is highly familiar with digital technologies and automation. It is only natural for them to work in the way the gig economy does.

  3. Special conditions.
    Then, there are people that find in the gig economy the perfect solution for making a living. Think about students, who are in need of flexible, part-time gigs to finance their studies; parents who want to stay at home with their kids and need to work flexible hours on their own terms; or immigrants who land on a foreign country with no connections or language skills and, who, sometimes also have to deal with prejudice and even racism. All these people can more easily find jobs in the gig economy field.

  4. Diversity is queen.
    Last, but not least, we should point out that gig work is very diverse and allows for many different paths. Driving with Uber or delivering food with Foodora are not the only options gig workers have. This is a broad misconception. There is a vast pool of options for almost every kind of occupation and service in categories like teaching, driving, freelancing, pet sitting, private care, car or home rental etc. And many gig workers have the opportunity to achieve the optimal schedule and earnings for them by combining and complementing their gigs.

    As the gig economy grows the misconceptions surrounding it will ultimately vanish, but meanwhile, let’s try to be open minded and see the gig world as it is: an economy field that is for many workers a conscious choice and not a last resort solution for making a living.


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