If you’ve ever had a side hustle, like freelancing, delivering goods, tutoring, rideshare driving, blogging, or anything else that provides money for labour on a temporary as-need basis, you’ve likely dipped your toes into the gig economy.
The gig economy is an ever-growing free market that has flourished in the wake of the digital world. Uber, Etsy, Freelancer and Fiverr are all online gig platforms that provide users the ability to earn money on their terms.
Although we have records of this type of employment being around since the 18th century,1 the modern-day gig economy has exploded with a wealth of opportunities in the last decade, disrupting and changing traditional employment models for many businesses.2
Recent events have highlighted our dependence on the online gig economy. With COVID-19 lockdowns forcing many restaurants to close, restaurant owners have begun relying on food delivery contractors to continue business as usual.31
The lucrative ridesharing market has the potential to continue growing due to global auto sales dropping by over 40% on the previous year in March 2020, with some countries in Europe dropping by up to 85%.33 With fewer people purchasing private vehicles, it’s more likely that they’ll depend on other ways to get around, such as public transport and rideshare apps.
Furthermore, major companies have had to let go of their employees or reduce contracted hours due to the crashing economy, putting many workers in a financial predicament. Cheryl Carleton, assistant professor in economics at Villanova University, described how rehiring and replacing workers can come at a high cost – a cost that many companies can’t afford coming out of a major global recession.34
She suggests that an alternative fix for firms is to hire fewer permanent employees, and instead rely more on contract workers.32 So, there’s a good chance that more people will be seeking gig jobs coming out of COVID-19.
The demands for autonomous and flexible work, driven by a greater hunger for freedom and entrepreneurship, have impacted the way companies organise their employees.29
The source of this demand is difficult to pin down. In any case, digital marketplaces have better equipped individuals to pursue the benefits of working independently – whether they’re looking for a side hustle or a change from the usual nine-to-five.
Not only that, technological advancements have made it easier for customers to create demand. For example, instead of calling a taxi service, you can order the closest available rideshare driver at the click of a button. Not only is it faster and easier, it’s also a cheaper alternative. These cheaper and more convenient alternatives have disrupted demand in existing markets.
We’ll likely see a continued expansion of the online gig economy, but there’s no way to know for sure how it’ll progress in future.
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