What is the gig economy? Meaning behind the confusing term explained

What on earth do people mean when they talk about the gig economy? (Picture: Getty)

Chances are you’ll have heard someone in economics, or on the news, talking about the growing ‘gig economy’.

It’s a slightly baffling phrase. It has very little to do with music concerts, we know that for sure.

So what does it actually mean? And are you a part of it?

Well, the phrase refers to a major change in the traditional foundations of the global economy which we’ve had since the industrial revolution, which relies on permanent employment.

Are you part of the gig economy? If you’re taking jobs from various different places, then yes (Picture: Getty)

The gig economy means an economy where organisations and businesses rely more on freelancers and independent workers, contracted on a short-term basis, than they do on permanent staff.

In this context, the word ‘gig’ refers to a one-off job that someone gets paid to do on a casual basis.

Temporary positions are common in the gig economy, too.

The digital age is thought to have ushered in this new phase of employer/worker relations (Picture: Getty)

There are several reasons why the economy is moving in this direction.

First of all, the digital revolution now means most people own a smartphone and laptop, devices they can use on the move – which means they can work from anywhere.

So more and more of the global workforce are choosing to be independent of a company and to offer their skills via the internet.

Many people reckon this is a hugely preferential way for workers to operate as it allows more time for travel and family life, though contracted employees might say they have more security.

Got a laptop? You can work anywhere (Picture: Getty)

The desire to maintain a healthy work-life balance is definitely key to driving the workforce of the gig economy, and millennials are also able to make the most of freelance life by circumventing rivals with their knowledge of tech.

Organisations like The Hoxby Collective are revolutionising the lives of freelance specialists from all fields by creating a network that allows them to find work tailor-made for them while sticking to their preferred ‘workstyle’.

The gig economy is also flourishing because digitisation has meant that lots of jobs that were previously done by humans are now done by computers, leading to a reduction of permanent jobs.

This is a common sight in most London cafes (Picture: Getty)

And there are also more financial pressures on companies, meaning they are likely to hand out less permanent roles and depend more on ephemeral labour.

This way, companies save on training, office space and benefits, and can draft in expert workers temporarily who would be too expensive to hire.

For workers, it’s goodbye offices – and employers now have a sea of skilled workers to depend on.

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