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gig economy

A gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations hire independent workers for short-term commitments. The term "gig" is a slang word for a job that lasts a specified period of time; it is typically used by musicians. Examples of gig employees in the workforce could include work arrangements such as freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires.

There has been a trend toward a gig economy in recent years. There are a number of forces behind the rise in short-term jobs. For one, the workforce is becoming more mobile and work can increasingly be done remotely via digital platforms. As a result, job and location are being decoupled. That means that freelancers can select among temporary jobs and projects around the world, while employers can select the best individuals for specific projects from a larger pool than what's available in any given area.

Digitization has also contributed directly to a decrease in jobs as software replaces some types of work to maximize time efficiency. Other influences include financial pressures on businesses leading to a flexible workforce and the entrance of the millennial generation into the labor market. People tend to change jobs several times throughout their working lives, especially millennials, and the gig economy can be seen as an evolution of that trend.

The gig economy is part of a shifting cultural and business environment that also includes the sharing economy, the gift economy and the barter economy. The cultural impact of the gig economy continues to change, for example, with the advent of COVID-19 in 2020 -- where the pandemic has had a large influence.

Who is part of the gig economy?                             

Companies, gig workers and consumers all make up the gig economy. The types of organizations that the gig economy can apply to range from technical positions to transportation positions.

For example, some industries that include gig economy jobs are:

  • IT
  • Software development
  • Project management
  • Accounting and finance
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Media and communications
  • Freelance writing
  • Arts and design
  • Transportation
  • Material moving

There isn't a single profile for who gig economy workers tend to be. However, these workers can include freelancers, independent contractors, project-based workers and temporary or part-time hires. In 2017, 6.9% of all US workers were independent contractors. Gig workers are generally not easy to identify in surveys about employment and earnings, but reportedly, less than half of these workers rely on gigs as their primary source of income. Some studies have shown that men tend to take more labor-based gigs and try to rely on this for income, while women will be more likely to take sales or marketing gigs for supplemental income. 

Consumers may participate in the gig economy as a matter of convenience, as with ride-sharing or food delivery apps. Others may participate in it in terms of entertainment, as with concert-goers. Others still, may participate in the gig economy as a potential alternative to non-gig products or industries. For example, a person may choose to stay at an Airbnb instead of a hotel. There have been many popular gig-based services, including ridesharing apps like Uber or food delivery services like Grubhub. However, in 2020, the gig economy began changing how customers use these services due to COVID-19.

A survey was conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in 2020 about how consumer attitudes changed regarding ride-hailing and delivery services. The survey found a divide in user base. Americans with higher incomes were more likely to use these delivery services to help reduce their risk of infection. Regarding customers who previously used ride-hailing services, 63% said they had not used the service since March of 2020, and 54% said they feel uncomfortable using a ride-hailing service during the COVID-19 outbreak. With the presumable loss of customers, however, the percentage of individuals using delivery services remained approximately the same. This could've been caused because those who cut back on these services because of comfort and cost was balanced by some users, increasing their reliance on these services. Additionally, people with higher household incomes had more groceries delivered to their homes at this time. Households with incomes of about $100,000 a year were about twice as likely to have increased their use of grocery delivery services, AP reported.

However, even though delivery services remained about the same, some services still lost money. For example, even though GrubHub's daily average orders rose 32% in the second fiscal quarter, it still lost money in efforts to protect drivers and prop up struggling restaurants.

Common gig economy jobs and industries

Gig economy jobs may include multiple positions found in common industries that hire gig workers. For example:

  • IT gigs may include freelance work for information security engineer and network Analyst jobs.
  • Software development gigs can include DevOps engineers and UX
  • Freelance writer gigs may include gigs for content writer and copywriter jobs.
  • Accounting and finance freelance gigs can include independent consultants and mortgage representatives.
  • Transportation jobs can include ride-share drivers.
  • Construction gigs can include carpenters and other construction workers.
  • Art and design gigs can include musicians or graphic design
  • Administrative gigs can include pharmacy technician and design administrative assistant jobs.
  • Media and communications gigs can include technical writers and photographers.
  • Education gigs can include substitute instructors and tutors.
  • Project management gigs can include project or office manager jobs.

Perks of the gig economy

In a gig economy, businesses save resources in terms of benefits, office space and training. They also have the ability to contract with experts for specific projects who might be too high-priced to maintain on staff. From the perspective of the freelancer, a gig economy can improve work-life balance over what is possible in most jobs. Ideally, the model is powered by independent workers selecting jobs that they're interested in, rather than one in which people are forced into a position where, unable to attain employment, they pick up whatever temporary gigs they can land.

Issues with the gig economy

However, the gig economy isn't for everyone. Some downsides include:

  • Lack of benefits may be the biggest downside. A gig worker won't have health insurance or other benefits they would get from working as full-time employee
  • By labeling workers as independent contractors, a hiring organization will not need to pay those workers minimum wage, deliver benefits or pay for overtime.
  • Work-life balance can be disrupted if the worker isn't used to making their own schedules.
  • Because temporary employees are cheaper to hire, the gig economy may make it harder for full-time employees to develop their careers.
  • Inconsistent income can also be an issue. Having enough work to maintain a stable income from gigs can be a continuous worry in terms of job security.
  • Taking on too many gigs may also add to difficulties in scheduling and may lead to burnout.
  • It will be more difficult to maintain relationships between workers, employers and clients long term.
This was last updated in October 2020

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How is your organization influenced by the gig economy?
Poor definition. Fails to tell where "gig" came from or what it means.
The word gig was a slang word used by people referring to finding a job. "I have a gig with Count Basie. I have a gig working at the docks. etc.
GIG means job.
The term seems to have surfaced during the 2008-2009 economic downturn. A lot of people were out of work and companies lacked resources to bring anyone on full time. Hence, people were getting temporary "gigs" at best. It could also be considered an ode to the notion of Gigabit per second networking/Internet speeds. All that said, it is at best an inaccurate buzzphrase. Perhaps there is a gig workforce, but an economy has far more factors than how people are employed. Using the term more reveals an economic ignorance than insight. Further, arguably 2008-2009 illustrated the absence of an economy not the coming of a new one.
It has virtually no origin. Just like "Hello" in conversation, "Gig" has evolved in the industrial sector.
It has virtually no origin. Just like “Hello” in conversation, “Gig” has evolved in the industrial sector. 
I was on a popular international site, where freelancers from around the world compete for projects or "jobs". Many people in countries with a much lower cost of living were getting the work, because they were much cheaper and non-competitive. Also, because of the time differences, they were able to learn about and complete the jobs much faster.


I am a physician and I wonder if I can work through gig economy. Is there any ideas in this?

By belief is that you are in control on who you hire. You will find a way to work through any problem. We all had to work through what ever economy that we lived in. You are stronger than you think.
Job without a CV! Register here:
Hello Margaret,
Great information. I agree with you. I also think that Online Service Marketplaces trends are growing now days and these are the platforms where you can find professional. GIG economy is growing economy and every one wanted to do freelance work. Yes, culture is shifting.
From my personal experience, this translates as more employers cutting costs by using skilled workers as a disposable part of their business model. This extends the trend downward for the average middle class worker getting used and hosed over, again. It's one notch above exploiting child labor.
avejoe: My experience is just the opposite. I don't know an employer who wouldn't love to have long term dedicated employees, including myself. Unfortunately, and that's putting it lightly, they no longer exist. I know many small and medium business owners who are being forced to deal with the constant turn-over of staff and an inability to find talent that wants to work. Outsourcing on a project basis is always more costly than performing "in house" with a quality team. 
If their turnover rates are through the roof, it means the problem is with them and their business model/workplace environment/inadequate compensation. The days of feeling a sense of loyalty or duty to one's employer disappeared when people realized it wasn't being reciprocated, and they could be laid off/underpaid/mismanaged/denied promotions. 

Companies that give their employees a stake (and, dare I say it, a share) in the company's success are able to hang on to talent long-term. Companies that treat their employees as disposable items shouldn't be surprised when employees start treating their jobs as disposable items.
I disagree. The short term job or 'gig' will be filled regardless but at much higher cost via recruiter/agency. If you connect the employer and professional/worker directly then everyone wins.
I am a physical laborer Gigster and see this as a means to the future which provides help to the small businesses. I suplement my gigs with Handyman work for home owners. In the past year I have built and refaced kitchen and bathroom cabinets, I have worked to hang cabinets and doors on large projects, I ran electrical wire for an electrician, assembled speaker cabinets, unloaded trucks and help set up for large promotions. The problem is finding jobs in this catagory especially in small communities but I see it as the future especially when so many people do not show up for jobs they were hired for and the high turn over companies and businesses are experiencing. this is not a downward trend but an upward trend to a different way to live. And yes this conversation can go on and on.

Funny , I heard "Automation"  ( nee Technology) was taking away jobs..... in the 1960s.... haha    before I actually had a job for myself yet due to my age...

   Good Luck YOU will need it...

PS: save your $$$   Colleges are opening everywhere , cos ITS a no brainer business...hire workers & rake in the Cash... You only get a paper chase, worthless unless YOU pick the wrong Job that requires one!!

Another machiavellic attempt to maximize corporate profits at employees’ detriment. Still alive and well is the colonialist modus operandi of squeezing and expending! The serfs not only till the soil. They now must perform a...gig. Any deliverer to chart a new Magna Carta?
Before joining the mob in the U.S. pointing its angry finger at corporations, consider starting a corporation yourself. The legal and tax ramifications just to self incorporate in most states are daunting. Starting a business is a scary prospect. Perhaps that is why you find so many people willfully taking what work they can rather than starting their own business (as their grandparents did). What we have seen in private industry is what we have also seen in politics in the U.S. Thanks to our two major political parties (who produce 99 percent of the state and national lawmakers in the country), it is impossible either enter the political arena or the marketplace without paying homage to them.
Good article gig is individual based job.  Great platform for gig jobs is gigwag among the other sites out there.


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