Remember when the “Gig Economy” was viewed with suspicion, even revulsion, by many who clung to life in the corporate world? Big business and the alleged security it provided made everyday workers look down their noses at those entrepreneurs of the early days who dared to reach toward something new.
Remember the young girl in the Cyndi Lauper video who was representative of all girls who “just wanna have fun” that was questioned by her father, “Whatcha gonna do with your life?” Gig economy workers were viewed like the wild girl just out to “have fun” and waste her life, that would eventually have to grow up and get real jobs.
I came of age when a ‘gig’ was a strictly side job one did to earn extra money. In the 80s, that meant mowing yards, putting up hay, cutting and hanging tobacco and other low-skill, physically demanding jobs that were temporary in nature. This is where the gig economy of today gets its name. But the ‘new’ gig economy of today is now mainstream — the seldom-acknowledged stepchild has grown up and now demands respect from the labor force family.
You’ve Already Enjoyed the Benefits of the New Gig Economy
Have you reserved a rideshare with Uber on your smartphone? Ordered food or grocery delivery? Then you’ve benefited from the new gig economy. In fact, Reuters reports that 34% of the workforce in the United States were gig workers in 2017, and that number is expected to rise. A Mastercard study from 2019 predicts the gig economy will have a gross volume of $455 billion in 2023.
If you are one of the almost 60 million people who make money in the U.S. gig marketplace, sometimes referred to as having a side hustle or being a freelancer, you are a gig worker. Some estimates say the United States is well on its way to establishing a mainstream gig economy, since almost one third of the working population is in some gig capacity as of 2021.