During the Great Recession, due largely to the crash of subprime mortgage, unemployment rose to 7.2% in US. The unemployed were fighting a toxic battle for jobs with fresh grads. And it is not just the US that was facing this problem. In Singapore, despite what statistics are saying, we can’t escape the fact that many are not exactly working in their “dream job”. As people from the most expensive city in the world, money is as good as blood. So developing ways to increase personal wage is getting more and more common.
For those who are bold enough to take the path, entrepreneurship is the new buzzword. But for those who desire a bit more stability but yet wish to keep some flexibility with their time, they become part of the gig economy.
Defining the Gig Economy
Modern day economists have various understandings of what makes a specific job a part of the gig economy. Some define the gig economy to include only those from on-demand apps like Uber, accounting for a very small percentage of the employment market. Others argue that freelancing should be included as part of the gig economy data.
Perhaps it would be helpful if we can first define what a “gig” is. “Gig” is a slang created by jazz musicians to describe a job, most often in the music and entertainment. It has now been used to described short, on-demand jobs that require only temporary commitment from the worker.
In the old days, not having a permanent job is frowned upon and seen as a sign of laziness. But today, the gig economy is gaining traction, with more and more people looking at the gig economy as a potent way to earn money. It is still an idea that needs getting used, but on-demand work is slowly becoming the new job market.
To understand the potential power of the gig economy, though, one may need to look back at a seedier side of American history ie the Wild West was economically aided by the sex industry. You can argue that prostitution, one of the world’s oldest profession, is in fact one of the world’s oldest gigs. Women get paid for sex-on-demand. Despite its perceived negativity, these women eventually lead the creation of prosperous towns. In case you’re wondering, the women definitely were not short of career opportunities. America’s overall economy was in fact booming, with plenty of careers to choose from.
Millenials at the Steering Wheel of Gig Economy
Whereas escapism through drugs sex and rock and roll defined the youth culture of the 70s, the youth culture today is a little more complex. Many have started earning wages at a young age. With cost of living started to creep up, parents started tightening on expenses. Eventually the more enterprising ones found ways to gain some financial independence by taking on part-time work. The internet has also made it easier to interact, and when interactions happen, society will use it as an opportunity to create a buy-sell market.
Also, job-hopping has become a trend among the new generation. As the economy recovers and demand for the workforce rise, the options for gaining income has become endless. To keep up with the highly-increasing turnover, companies have resorted to on-demand workforce or contingent labour to ensure business productivity.
Struggles of the Gig Economy
As with every new cycle of the economy, there’s bound to be struggles. One of the problems of gig work is about knowing how to put the dollar and cents price tag to the work that one does or the skills that one has. It is not that easy. Freelancers wants to be valued for what they are worth. Yet, they are afraid to price themselves too high that it turns away opportunities. On the other hand, companies would want to hire the talent to get things done. But the short work stint and lack of loyalty is not something they are too keen to commit to.
Of course, establishments like Brand BuildUp Collective are formed to ease and enhance the bridging process of value between freelancers and clients. Part of the process is about understanding what is true value for both the talent as well as the client. But this requires time and is still a learning process for the market overall. As with any phase of the economy, though, the market will always find the balance eventually.
Armen Rizal Rahman