Many are quick to assume the Gig Economy refers to the larger, global economy; coming from the Greek word ‘Gigas’ meaning Giant/whole. In reality, the term relates to interim pieces of work referred to as ‘gigs’, in which, an entity is employed to conduct a specific piece of work as opposed to being directly employed by an organisation, with no pre-determined end date or specified deliverables.
One of the many definitions has demonstrated the Gig Economy to be “a way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer”. So, who wins?
Forbes published an article last year that stated there are currently 53 million freelancers in the USA, with this figure expected to rise to 50% of the total workforce by 2020 (75mn). Admittedly, not all of these freelancers will be solely working in this way, however, the fact that this need has arisen demonstrates the way in which the world we live is changing.
Within the current culture, there is a need to constantly improve and innovate; digitalisation has an increased value in everything we do. Whether it be streamlining a process, or providing improved access to services online, this increase can be one of the many contributing factors that are leading to the rise of the Gig Economy, as well as a contributor to issues such as rising unemployment. Digitalisation can directly lead to a decrease in certain jobs, due to the nature of the tasks; in which previously, performed by human hand, rapidly being overtaken by automation processes.
So what does this mean? With the rise of Zero Hour contracts, and ‘that’ company, in and out of the headlines, with never ending promises to abolish this way of working, the Gig Economy is gaining a strange reputation. On one hand, some demographics prefer this method of working as it brings flexibility to day to day duties and can promote efficiencies with employers. Instances such as the National Trust benefit from this style, as a large proportion of their workforce depend on seasonal working and weather conditions, which suits the business and employees perfectly. On the other hand, employees in the retail industry can turn up to work to be told “you won’t start for another 2 hours” which can be demotivating, costly and in my opinion, ridiculous and unfair.
So again, who wins? The ONS recently published a study that illustrates how the number of full-time employees has fallen as a proportion of total employment since 2008. It has been heavily argued that bullish corporations are the sole beneficiary of this, however there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
The Government’s employment reviewer; Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts) recently conducted a review to address how employment practices need to change in order to adapt to new ways of working. As a result, Matthew has moved to review and enable legislation which will provide further security to employee rights and responsibilities. The conclusion of the review was concentrated across 6 key areas;
So, things are changing, but for the better? The reality is; there is no sole group that ‘wins’ with the evolution of the Gig Economy. It is up to the government to depict fair rules and regulations in order to ensure employee safety, as well as keep the economy afloat by not stifling employers with strict rules and regulations. The whole reason the Gig Economy has been welcomed is the flexibility it brings. Legislation has to be careful to ensure this flexibility is still at the forefront of the movement and not lost in translation.
The fact is, all parties involved in the process need to work in collaboration to bring the benefits above, to all. Whether it be employee, employer or agency, we have to work together to bring a better future for all. Without a strong labour force, the economy will suffer and with the recent decision to leave the EU, the UK will suffer further, to provide the necessary skills in order for the country to operate at an optimum capacity. Without a strong economy, there will be a reduction in the total number of jobs available, causing skilled workers to consider options elsewhere.
Placing rules and regulations into Zero Hour Contracts and the Gig Economy as a whole can be contradictory to the point of creating the oxymoron – ‘Inflexible flexibility’, sounds funny doesn’t it?
Hamid Yafai, Venn Group