'The Gig Economy is going to change the future of work.'
If you've been reading articles online (and offline), you will likely come across statements related to this.
You may agree, disagree, or be completely indifferent to it. Yet, it is worth thinking about.
To the above statement, I’d say ‘yes, in a way, but, mainly, no.’
The Gig Economy has been around since work became a means to support oneself and one’s family. There have always been informal work arrangements or contracts exchanged between those with desired products / services and those who desire them.
Think of the ancient scribes and, later, notaries, who were paid to put contracts and legal documents in writing.
Think of the independent travelling salesmen, who had to go from door to door or market to market to sell their wares, which may have come from different suppliers.
Think of the young, enterprising children who act as tour guides and offer to take tourists around for a small fee, to show them the sights, the sounds, and the smells of their local cultures.
Perhaps at some point, a group of scribes came together to form a ‘company’ of scribes, to take on larger, more elaborate projects and share the earnings.
Maybe it was an ambitious travelling salesman who took on a deal that needed practitioners of other trades and decided to permanently keep them together, the better to negotiate future deals of similar nature.
It may also have been a group of young unofficial tour guides deciding to team up to divide up the work, some attracting the tourists, others making deals with local businesses to bring tourists to them for a commission, and still others doing the actual tour guiding. The extra benefit to them? Each one gets a day off work per week.
Now, even with the formation of these ‘companies’, there will still be independent workers in each of these trades. They are still going from gig to gig, with no intention to be part of any one group. They may occasionally work with some of these groups for a season, or all of them, but never ‘settle’ down with any of them.
What was true then is still true today, and it will hold true in the future.
There will always be independent workers – Giggers – and some of them will come together to form ‘companies’ or join existing ones, and some in ‘companies’ will want to strike out on their own.
With technology, information flows more rapidly and easily. This makes it much easier and cheaper for Giggers to do what they do, and for them to sustain their lifestyles. As such, it’s easy to see how the number of Giggers will likely increase in the coming years.
That said, there has always been an ebb and flow of labour supply. When the number of independent workers goes past a certain threshold, competition may force them to band together and, once again, form ‘companies’. This trend will then take root again, until it hits its own threshold, when the opposite effect occurs.
Since this has always been the case, it’s hard to imagine that the future of work will really change from what it has always been, with or without technology.
That said, to those who aren’t yet on board with the Gig Economy, I can only say that it’s better to start learning how you can take advantage of this move before you are forced down the wrong end of its inevitable movement into your sector.