Have you heard of the “Gig Economy”? Even if you have never read that term, you or someone you know may be affected by it. The Gig Economy is a growing trend and it is expected it may become the only way around work in the near future. But what is it? Diane Mulcahy, author of “The Gig Economy” and teacher of the pioneer MBA course of the same name writes: “If we think about the current world of work as an spectrum, with traditional full-time work/career on one end and unemployment on the other end, the broad range and variety of alternative work in between is the “Gig Economy”: it includes consulting and contractor arrangements, part-time jobs, temp assignments, free-lance, self-employment, side gigs and on-demand work through increasingly trendy online platforms such as Upwork and TaskRabbit.”
As a life and career coach also concerned about the state of the planet and society at large, I want to explore both sides of this growing trend. In my everyday work I have seen it happening: more and more employers cut jobs and force existent staff to do the same work previously done by two or three people. Employees are expected to upgrade their skills using their money and time and benefits are being reduced to the minimum, if not scraped all together. Contract work is more and more common and people no longer stay in one career. Where high school was enough 30 or 40 years ago, now even a bachelor degree is not enough. The more affected are the usual vulnerable ones: immigrants and refugees, women, seniors, people with disabilities and the young or under-skilled.
While these types of work arrangements have existed for decades, they are now becoming the norm: some people go into the Gig Economy looking for freedom from the 9-5 trap that produces boredom, lower productivity and burnout. Some see these types of arrangements as a great opportunity for travelling, learning new skills and having more flexibility around family and other interests. Some see the benefits of having multiple incomes as a safer than a steady income that may stop altogether at any time. Some see this as a curse they want to avoid…
The Gig Economy has pros and cons: for employers, it is a way to hire people just when they need them and save money that they would otherwise have to pay on benefits, vacation and idle employees. For workers and professionals, it means the end of “stability” and a “career” as traditionally known. On the other hand, it represents an opportunity to be more in control of your budget, time and skills and more flexibility to be with your family, travel, learn and engage in new projects. It is for sure an antidote to boredom and 9-5 jobs, but it means you need ti generate other incomes, be creative about your time and constantly update your skills (all at your own expense).
Next year, I will be presenting this topic at a BCCDA Conference and writing some articles on this. I see the potential for social entrepreneurship, re-localizing the economy and regaining control over people’s true resilience, but I’m also concerned about the reality of exploitation, abuse and a way back to times when people had to fight for their workers’ rights.
For this reason, I want to collect stories from real people who have been impacted by the Gig Economy: was it something you sought or were forced by circumstances? How has been it for you and your family? What have been the challenges and the opportunities? What kind of supports do you need for it to work? Do you see it as an opportunity to re-think work and how we do business and if so, how do you think this may impact the social construct of our communities and the planet?
If you are also engaged in Transition, Permaculture or any other way of regenerative work, social or resilience/healing work, I am interested in how this connects with what you do…where do you see the potential?