Gig Work And The Past, Present And Future Of American Labor

By Jennifer Van Grove
San Diego Union-Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jennifer Van Grove of The San Diego Union-Tribune takes a look at how free market forces are fundamentally changing the way we work.

San Diego Union-Tribune

With everything from rides and food to massages available at the push of a smartphone button, it’s easy to assume that independent contractors working on behalf of online platforms, or gig workers as they’re also called, are taking over the American labor force. But such is not the case, yet.

It’s true that the independent workforce is massive and growing. An estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of the working-age population engaged in independent work in the U.S. and EU, or up to 162 million people, according to an October 2016 report from McKinsey Global Institute.

The firm defines this type of work as free agents working jobs that have a high level of control and autonomy, pay by task or assignment, and are short in duration.

But gig work should not be conflated with independent work. It is, rather, a much smaller subset of independent work, with digital platforms serving as intermediaries between workers and jobs.

Most experts also limit gig work to labor-specific jobs, via Uber, Postmates or TaskRabbit, for instance. That means leasing assets or selling wares through sites such as Airbnb and eBay are not included in the definition.

Using this standard, gig workers represented just 0.5 percent of the U.S. working population in 2015, according to esteemed researchers Lawrence Katz, a professor of economics at Harvard, and Alan Krueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton.

And even when including the broader spectrum of digital marketplaces such as Etsy and VRBO, roughly 4 percent of the working-age population in the U.S. and the EU has used them to generate income, according to McKinsey. That equates to just 15 percent of the independent workforce using these online platforms to make money.

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *