Word of the week: the ‘gig economy’

The gig economy refers to an economic situation in which many self-employed workers are paid by the job, on a day-to-day basis.

People who enjoy the freedom that comes with such a scenario but also accept the insecurity and lack of social protection that such work brings with it. This new economy is, in fact, growing as the middle class becomes more vulnerable.

The expression stems from the English word ‘gig’, meaning ‘concert’, since it was previously only musicians who had to look for gigs and were paid by the job. With the arrival of digital platforms, however, the term ‘gig economy’ has become more widely used and now covers a very broad spectrum of roles that conceal a hugely disparate set of realities. There are platforms for home-based services (Task Rabbit), meal delivery services (Deliveroo, Uber Eats, etc.), and you can even enlist the skills of freelancers in various fields (Upwork).

The empowerment of algorithms

Inspired by technological developments, the gig economy has emerged as a result of two phenomenas, namely the increasingly widespread use of smartphones and the more extensive use of reviews. The algorithms at the heart of this new economy then distribute the relevant tasks, rewarding some for their high levels of performance and sanctioning others, meaning that there is no need for any human intervention in managing the various players involved in this new economy since everything is managed automatically. A consequence of this being a weak customer relationship.

The retail industry – at the heart of the gig economy

The gig economy is as much a reinvention of the retail concept as it is a threat to it. With delivery times having become a source of irritation, companies are increasingly turning to low-skilled workforces that are willing to take care of logistics, handling and deliveries at a frantic pace. The gig economy also contributes to weakening social ties, gradually exhausting all those who perform these roles that are paid by the job. These self-employed individuals living with a certain lack of stability and an uncertain future and who have already been or are soon to be replaced by machines.

An opportunity to be seized

So who are the winners in this gig economy revolution? All the men and women who have a talent, a real skill, but who don’t know how to find new opportunities to develop their business? Or, the craftspeople who now have access to a platform that puts them in touch with potential customers seeking very specific expertise? All of whom, thanks to the magic of reviews, will be able to increase the amount of work they get and make a living out of their passions.

The gig economy has also encouraged the emergence of ‘slashers’ – those individuals with the ability to wear multiple hats that represent multiple sources of income.