Future Friday: The important thing about the gig economy is the flexibility

Flexibility in the workplace may or may not affect the gig economy.

In a recent study by Randstad shows that the gig economy is still not the full-time development that many were predicting. Some people like it but others are still uncomfortable with the concept.

The findings

The findings from the Randstad study, as reported in FE News by Amanda Akien, are:

  • 44% of gig workers have a University degree
  • 28% of gig workers perform professional work such as accounting or providing legal advice
  • Just under two-thirds, (62%) of gig workers are using it to create an additional income, helping to support their lifestyle and requirements
  • 69% of gig workers are men and only a third (31%) are women

Akien says that many people are still afraid of the gig economy. Though they may enjoy the perceived flexibility of it, the fear the lack of permanence and the potential of the inconsistency of income and the lack of benefits.

The rise of the gig economy

One of the reasons for the rise of the gig economy was the economic downturn the world suffered 10 years ago. Today, however, at least in the U.S., the economy is doing well and jobs are plentiful. People can find work and the need for full-time work in the gig economy is reduced. As the study found, about two-thirds of people engaged in the gig economy do so to supplement income, rather than rely on it for their primary source of money. But the concept is in place and one of the main reasons is the flexibility it offers. There is no secret that workers today, of all generations, value flexibility. There is an increasing demand and desire for freedom in time and the ability to work from alternative locations. Companies are stepping up and starting to incorporate this into their offerings to employees.

Will flexible workplaces forestall the gig economy?

One question I have about this increased flexibility that employers are offering is, will this forestall the number of workers migrating to the gig economy? If a primary drive to get into the gig economy is flexibility will increased workplace flexibility be sufficient for the majority of workers? As legislation is introduced to force employers to offer more workplace flexibility will this slow down the growth of the gig economy? Other issues that may affect this are worker classification rulings and legislation. As governments make it difficult to be gig workers that will certainly depress the tendency for people to move to it. As Akien says “The gig economy is likely to remain contentious for the foreseeable future, but it is already deeply embedded in the [labor] economy and affecting how individuals approach work.”
So the transition to a gig economy is not going to be as fast as many have forecast, not as the primary method of employment. I think its growth is inevitable, however, especially if we have another economic downturn, as some are forecasting.

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