The gig economy offers jobs that are very inviting and seem like a great opportunity at first glance. Making your own hours, working only when you want to or need to, and having a different experience than the usual desk job all seem like things that would make these jobs the ideal for a lot of people. However, nothing can be perfect, and often things are not as good as they may seem from the onset. This is definitely the case with jobs in the gig economy, as we are seeing and hearing from those who have worked these jobs.
But what exactly is the gig economy? The simplest definition is an economy based on gigs. That is to say, “temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend to hire independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees. A gig economy undermines the traditional economy of full-time workers who rarely change positions and instead focus on a lifetime career.” These sorts of jobs allow the workers to have more flexibility with their hours and to work in a more freelance environment, rather than in the same position with little to no change. These sorts of jobs vary in what exactly they are, but some common examples include “driving for Lyft or delivering food to writing code or freelance articles. Adjunct and part-time professors, for example, are contracted employees as opposed to tenure-track or tenured professors.”
However, many people who have experienced the gig economy firsthand, by working gig jobs, have come to realize that it is not quite what it seems, and this has led to a decline of success in these sorts of jobs, especially this year, with the global pandemic taking out a lot of the workers in the gig economy, as well as a lot of the jobs they might have been given had this year been different. Things such as the flexibility and good pay are decreasing steadily, creating worser work conditions, that pay less over time, leading people to look elsewhere for career options. “When Erica Mighetto began driving with Lyft three years ago, ‘I just loved it’, she said. Her grown son had left the house and she thought it would be a great move until she found a job in bookkeeping or property management. ‘I really enjoyed, you know, choosing my own hours,’ she told AFP. ‘I thought life was good.’ Mighetto lived in Sacramento but would drive more than an hour to the San Francisco area on weekends because there was more work in the richer towns. She slept in her car or shelled out $25 for a room. Mighetto was pulling in $60 to $80 an hour before expenses in 2017 but a series of rate cuts caused that to fall to $20 at the beginning of the year and to less than $10 in March. She finds the algorithms opaque and pernicious.” Erica Mighetto is only one example of a worker who started in the gig economy, and loved it at first. She was able to choose when to work, and was making quite a bit with her flexible hours. However, that began to decline, and this was only quickened by the Covid19 pandemic, which changed a lot of what people were willing to do and pay for.
What does this mean for the gig economy? Something that was once booming, and offered many benefits to the workers, is now declining on those perks, and people are realizing it is not quite what it seems. However, this is not the end of the gig economy, by any means. Many of the workers, while hoping for some improvements and changes, still do not regret their choice to make a living this way, and still enjoy the gig type of work to the alternative. “Amal would prefer a steady job but does not completely regret the path he has chosen. ‘What motivates me is I am the boss… I can manage my time and most importantly, no one scolds me,’ he laughed.” While there may need to be some changes to this work, and hopefully some improvements will occur as the world comes out of this pandemic, the gig economy is here to stay, offering an alternative to a normal desk job.