Can the gig economy become more sustainable?
The gig economy that boomed at the peak 2008 recession, was a boon for workers across social strata within countries as well as the world.
It brought a lot of positive impacts, giving people connected via the internet an ability to earn a living from home, do gigs on a full-time basis, and provide for their families.
For workers even in the remotest villages of Africa and Asia, data entries and other simple gigs became new income streams, providing them work opportunities that would have been otherwise not available to them. It has also played a role in pulling people out of poverty in many cases.
The more the gig economy has grown, the more impact it has had on the world. While in the lesser developed countries it has had a fairly positive impact in the financial aspect, its consequent impact in the more developed countries as well as on a larger global scale, has been questionable.
This is because of one simple reason: gig economy has allowed companies an avenue to hire workers from lesser developed countries at a lower wage.
On one hand, startups and SMEs with smaller budgets can outsource time-consuming tasks at far lower wages, which helps them grow quicker. On the other hand, the same jobs are being taken away from people in the cities; or, putting people from stronger economies in a position to accept wages equivalent to those popular in Asia and Africa.
This has one large impact: the wages are forced to be lower, which does not sustain their living expenses. This is not only true for creative and admin workers on Upwork and other freelance websites, but also for those working as full-time drivers for firms such as Uber. In fact, Silicon Valley bigwigs such as Facebook employs workers on a freelance basis across the world to act as ‘community moderators’.
Moreover, freelance jobs essentially take the responsibility of employees away from companies, which can have massive impacts on the country’s economy.
The challenge is that the gig economy has made the entire world essentially one big marketplace. This is why regulating platforms that enable the gig economy isn’t easy, as there are multiple governments and entities following different rules.
So how do we move forward from here?
While it is largely a regulation challenge, workers need voices and companies enabling the gig economy should follow certain guidelines to ensure the sustainability and safety of workers. Moreover, they need to establish benchmark wages on a global level, so that gig economy workers can make ends meet, and fair working standards are maintained.
Workers, benefactors and governments need to support fair practices and working standards to enable the gig economy to become more sustainable in the long run. This isn’t the sole responsibility of non-profit organisations, but for every person involved in the economy.