Business loves a buzzword or phrase, and along with AI, the gig economy is a current favourite. We’re constantly hearing about its takeover and take-down of traditional companies and working practices. However, has its importance been overstated? While it is a player in the modern world of work, it might not (yet) be as disruptive as we think.
Assessing the size of the gig economy is like looking into a double-sided mirror: Look in it one way, and it’s bigger than ever. Stare at the other, and you might have to squint.
This spring ushered in studies that seemed to indicate the latter. In June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 6.9% of the total workforce counts as a contingent worker (loosely defined as workers who may have a long-term employer, but are compensated by the individual gig; or self-employed contract workers). Another analysis from the Economic Policy Center found that Uber drivers (mainstays of the online gig economy) only accounted for about half a percent of total employment nationwide.
But a new study out of the JP Morgan Chase and Co. Institute attempts to analyze a more granular sector of the gig economy: People who find and are paid for their labor through online platforms. What they found is that the number of workers using apps to get gigs is increasing. It’s just that most of them still aren’t gigging that often.