RISE OF THE PRECARIAT PART 1: THE ‘GIG’ ECONOMY

As teachers help students explore transitions, careers and plan for lives after school, they need to educate themselves and their students on new trends in the workplace, such as autonomous vehicles, automation and the gig economy, that will certainly have a huge impact on the nature of employment in the 21st Century. Michael Chui (2016) suggests that  automation will eliminate some jobs completely, but will also have an impact to some extent on all occupations. “Given the rise of automation — and the threat of a jobless future…schools must prepare students to refresh their skills, and even reinvent themselves, throughout their professional lives (Preston 2018).”

PRECARIAT:  a play on the working-class proletariat and meaning those trapped in precarious lives with neither material nor psychological welfare” (CBC 2015).

GIG ECONOMY: a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) Report The changing nature of jobs. (2015) warns of “widespread insecurity” spreading as momentum shifts from societies with full-time jobs to shaky short-term employment across much of the globe. Currently, in Canada, the gig economy accounts for 20 – 30 per cent of the workforce and this is expected to rise over the next few years (Nazareth 2017).

A 2017 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (The Toronto Star) reports: …55 per cent (of those surveyed) said they participate in the sector because there are no other options, and almost the same proportion called the jobs “something to do until they can find something better” (Mojtehedzadeh 2017). However, finding “something better” may not even be possible, as some organizations are predicting that that this may be what the future looks like for employment in general (Kobie 2018).

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WINNERS AND LOSERS IN THE GIG ECONOMY

Highly skilled independent professionals, with in-demand skills and experience and the desire for flexible working ours will do well. For example: retired, highly-skilled, babyboomers, students, stay at home parents, people with disabilities, etc. Nazareth writes: “in a 2016 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 65  per cent of U.S. workers aged over 50 said they had a strong desire to work as independent contractors rather than employees.” For younger workers, a part-time gig economy is not as attractive; it means they may need to pick up several part-time jobs just to make ends meet. …only 33 per cent of those under 34 said that they had a strong desire to go that route. Nazareth writes… workers of all ages accept that independent work could be their future, with 53 per cent of those surveyed expected to be self-employed over the coming five years.

RIDeshare

Critics argue that while the gig economy benefits some sectors,  it can force vulnerable workers into poorly-paid, precarious part-time employment with no job security, no minimum wage, no sick days, no legal protection, no employment, and no employment insurance, “the gig economy has forced certain sections of the workforce into forms of self-employment they have no wish to embrace, that put them at risk of earning less than the national living wage, and which are enforced by threats, fines and a fear of losing their job”(Guardian 2018).

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Royalty Free Image from Istock photo

Mulcahy writes that the workers who will suffer most in the gig economy are those “entrenched in a passive, complacent employee mindset that relies on their employer to provide a sense of stability, career progression, and financial security. The workers who will benefit most in the gig economy are those who are comfortable being self-employed and are skilled at ‘hustling’...Independent workers who are comfortable with and excited about developing their own income streams, marketing themselves, and connecting with others are best positioned to take advantage of the many opportunities the gig economy offers”(2017).

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Royalty Free Image from Dreamstime.com

WORKERS WHO WILL BENEFIT IN THE GIG ECONOMY

Workers who have:

  • entrepreneurial traits
  • creative abilities
  • cutting-edge digital talent
  • specialized skills in marketing, sales or product launch
  • specialized industry knowledge
  • specialized skills in project management
  • specialized skills in logistics, transportation, & disruptive innovation
  • leadership & organizational skills
  • upper level management education, skills & experience
  • specialized in-demand education, skills & experience
  • technical in-demand education, skills & experience

WORKERS WHO WILL SUFFER IN THE GIG ECONOMY
(not including work that will be replaced by automation, such as drivers, factory and office workers, etc.) If these workers lose their good jobs, they are the most likely to have difficulty finding good work (Mulcahy 2016). 

  • retail sales
  • service workers
  • unskilled or low skill, manual workers
  • midlevel & low-level managers
  • junior assistants
  • bookkeepers

“The gig economy has created an employment model that robs workers of the rights they’ve earned over more than a century of fighting. It uses automation not to make a better world for everyone, but to put the risks of doing business on the backs of workers without providing them fair compensation (Recode 2016).”

 
REFERENCES

CHART: Sector-Automation

Alton, L (2018) Forbes. Why The Gig Economy Is The Best And Worst Development For Workers Under 30.

Bolden-Barrett, V. (2016) HRDIVE. Study: 91% of millennials say they want a full-time job, not concerned with perks.

Chui, M. at al (2016). Where Machines could replace humans, and where they can’t (yet.)

Field, F and A. Forsey (2018). The Guardian.Don Lane’s death must be the impetus to clean up the toxic gig economy
International Labour Organization (2015).The changing nature of jobs – World Employment and Social Outlook 2015

Kobie, N. (2018). Wired. What is the gig economy and why is it so controversial?

Marx, P. (2016). Recode. The gig economy has grown big, fast – and that’s a problem for workers.

Mojtehedzadeh, S. (2017) Toronto Star. Toronto’s gig economy fueled by young workers starved for choice.

Mulcahy, D. (2016) Harvard Business Review. Who wins in the gig economy and who loses. 
Nazareth, L.(2017) Globe & Mail. The gig economy is here – and we aren’t ready
Stewart, B. (2015)  CBC Rise of the ‘precariat,’ the global scourge of precarious jobs

Preston, C. (2018). The Herchinger Report. Teachers want to prepare students for the jobs of the future – but feel stymied.

 

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