Gig Work Have you ever been a gig worker? A recent study found that 37 percent of U.S. workers participate in the gig economy, and government and other estimates say 40 percent will be working outside traditional full-time jobs by 2020. Clearly the gig economy is not a fad. The issue is often whether it benefits only the company or also the worker. Do people actually like being gig workers, or has the economy forced them into it, sometimes by taking second and third jobs? A national survey by the Freelancers Union found that two in three of the 55 million U.S. workers who freelanced in 2016 did so because they wanted to, not because they were forced to; the other one-third did it out of necessity.7° Although motivations for gig work may vary, it is clear that employers are benefitting. Of course, part-time contract workers are not new. What is new is the way gig work has spread to many white-collar professions. Here are two examples. Joseph creates websites for a marketing company and a digital content studio. He also creates and edits motion graphics. “It’s been a fun ride, tiring but fun,” he says. “Finding time is always the struggle. I’m working on a freelance project every weekend.” Joseph thinks gig work has helped him improve his graphic skills faster than he might have done in a traditional job. “I get to move around to different companies, and if one thing falls out, I still have other things I can fall back on—and it keeps me sharp.” Nicole, a mother of three, is a full-time clerk at a law firm, but she decided she needed extra money and signed up with a work-at-home call center. Her husband has joined too. Nicole says her gig job is one she could continue when she retires, and she likes that possibility. 71 “This is the future of work,” says Diane Mulcahy, a private equities investor whose clients often benefit financially from the use of gig workers. The full-time employee is getting to be the worker of last resort.”77

Critical Thinking

  • Aside from the lack of benefits, what are the potentially negative effects for society of the gig economy?
  • What happens to the concept of loyalty between worker and employer if we move to a mostly gig economy? Will that result be negative or positive? For whom, and why?