A popular notion in the media today is that the gig economy really isn’t much of an economy at all. Experts from the Wall Street Journal to the Labor Department argue that economists and media overestimated the impact Uber/Lyft/gig workers have had on labor statistics and the labor market in general. As a recruitment professional however, I feel like it’s necessary to at least challenge these statements. What exactly are they using to measure impact? There is legitimate evidence that gigs are having an impact on the larger economy.
For example, of the 150+ million person strong workforce in the US, Forbes reports that over 50+ million take part in the gig or freelance economy. That means 1 in 3 working Americans, which is hardly insignificant. Simply by virtue of sheer numbers, the gig economy is obviously a crucial part of many Americans trying to make a better life for themselves. Changes in cost of living, available technology and shifting goals and financial needs from past generations means only more employees will join the gig economy- even if only on a part-time basis.
According to research by Upwork, these 50+ million gig workers in the US contribute over $700 billion dollars to the US economy annually. There’s money to be made in the gig economy and the majority of the workers are motivated mostly by the desire to earn supplemental income. On a larger scale, freelancers help small businesses stay competitive with larger firms by offering optimization services (jobs like freelance web design, marketing, copywriting) at reasonable prices. The combination of direct revenue injection, through taxes, money made or otherwise and enrichment of small businesses means gig/freelance workers are a growing contributor to the health of the economy at large.
Finally, in my line of work, I am concerned with two things: getting people hired and keeping them hired (because they’re an ideal fit for the job).With the gig economy it’s never been easier for companies to find skilled, willing workers. Freelance opportunities give employers the chance to fill positions, focused on a specific skill set, without going through the tedious and expensive hiring process. Freelancers can use these opportunities as a chance to show their skills to employers who could potentially offer them full time work once their contract ends. Employers get their deliverables in time and freelancers get to showcase their talents: everyone wins! This model also makes it easy for employers and freelancers to cut their losses easily if the work culture or position is simply not a fit.
Between the emergence of remote working/telecommuting and gig economy we’re in the midst of a shift in working behavior. The world of employment is changing to better suit people’s needs, with the working class taking more control of their time and earning power. Maybe statistics do show that the gig economy hasn’t made quite the huge impact that experts speculated it would, but we’re just in the early stages of this change. As it becomes more widespread, we’ll be able to more successfully quantify the impact it’s made.
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