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The Gig Economy: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Imagining a world where everyone works as a freelancer is now possible.

22Sep

Career trends are changing, not long ago many were tempted to find a lifelong career which would seemingly give people satisfaction in their professional life. Today, tables have turned and more people believe that a good job is the one that doesn't stand in the way of being the boss of your own time, your personal life goals, and self-growth. Considering that people still need to pay their bills, many have started moving towards temporary and flexible positions, treating them as a journey which fits their current period of life. The trend has eventually evolved to the gig economy- where temporary or fixed contract options are valued more than permanent ones. According to a study conducted by Intuit, by 2020, 40% of working Americans will be independent contractors.

How reliable is this career path, though?

The attitude towards the gig economy depends on the perspective from which we are looking at it. Those preferring to be self-employed cannot be blamed, considering economic and political uncertainties in the world today. The career path is a relatively secure option, as an increasing popularity of a trend ensures there is always a position in the job market, so chances of unemployment are low. As millennials currently shape the largest proportion of the US population, and their aspirations are orientated on the satisfaction of their needs and personal interests, fixed options provide flexibility and the sense of independence from the corporate walls.

This social shift didn't happen solely because of the nature of millennials, it has also been inspired by new companies and services which disrupted the market. Airbnb, Uber, and Deliveroo are just a few examples of companies with growing demand which wouldn't exist without the gig economy. By growing in size and revenue, disruptive startups acquire influence in the job market, shaping particular trends and introducing new rules. But aside from the advantages, there is also another side of the coin.

Being self-employed within the gig economy means that workers have to essentially operate like mini-businesses. This means rights, freedoms, and legal protection of these employees are limited. Problems and risks can occur in the form of unfixed pay-rates, the absence of life/injury insurance, and a vague prospect of being heard. Thus, as fast as the gig economy gained popularity, it has also become a problem in society.

These issues have seen couriers from a food delivery service Deliveroo protesting in front of their London HQ, as well as a countless number of complaints and even lawsuits against companies like Uber and Lyft - all related to the poor treatment of their workers. The problem is that expectations of the gig economy don't always match the reality.

Deliveroo, for example, attracts many people - from full-time job seekers to part-time opportunists due to the working schedule offered. Deliveroo has enjoyed successful investment rounds and is increasing in popularity with the service already operating in 12 countries. Focused on food-delivery, the company has a large number of couriers, who unlike office workers, are vulnerable to the 'side-effects' of the gig economy. In the UK, couriers currently have an hourly rate of £7 + £1 per delivery - during busy periods (in the mornings and evenings). During quiet hours, couriers work on 'per-delivery' basis, without the hourly rate. The service has recently announced plans of reviewing its payment system, with the proposal to remove the hourly rate and replace it with £4.25 per delivery during the day. Considering that most of the couriers cycle long distances, the efficiency varies depending on weather and traffic conditions, with some couriers claiming that sometimes, the wage falls below the minimum wage, which is currently £7.20 an hour. According to BI, Deliveroo said the new payment scheme is a trial and that on average, couriers drop a minimum of 2 orders an hour, suggesting that overall the wage is well above the national minimum.

Bearing in mind that there is currently no shortage of Uber drivers, Deliveroo couriers, and Airbnb hosts - regardless of the risks, people acknowledge and appreciate them. After all, it's not the money that matters in the gig economy, but being the boss of your own time. According to TIME, freelance workers and contractors will earn 28% less, however, only because they work fewer hours. Inspired by the examples of successful entrepreneurs, many people no longer want to climb a career ladder but are drawn to the idea of creating their own future, and time, which in this case, prevails over money.

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