The Gig Economy is for many economists, the vision of Adam Smith's free market economy finally realised; workers choose their own hours, can easily switch between employers and are rewarded according to the quality and quantity of their work rather than due to length of tenure or corporate favouritism. Many who are engaged in the gig economy are the strongest advocates of it, citing the flexibility of the hours and the varied options for work as amongst the chief benefits which they struggled to find in the traditional nine to five economy.

The gig economy is thriving

This phenomenon is growing, with a recent study showing that 8% of Americans have participated in the gig economy and that half of them consider their earnings from it to be vital to meeting their monthly expenses. The options have never been more varied, aspiring hoteliers can put their spare rooms up on Airbnb, taxi drivers can work for Uber, web designers can apply to Upwork to meet with prospective clients and keen cyclists can deliver for Deliveroo. Yet when such employment stops being an optional extra source of income and instead becomes the only viable opportunity for the workers of the economy, trouble and tension begin to emerge.

No rights, no security, no choice

All of the main players in the gig economy have been under increasing pressure from workers to provide improved pay and conditions. Supporters have argued that trying to turn such companies into traditional employers destroys the entire concept of the gig economy and reduces the flexibility of such organisations which have been one of the main sources of job growth in recent years.

Yet many workers in the gig economy have argued that their choice to work for such organisations was no real choice at all, but merely accepting the only work available in a tight job market. If the trend continues, an increasing number of workers around the world will find themselves without any employment rights or protection, and face a precarious hand-to-mouth existence working for employers who are not required to pay for basic rights such as sick leave, maternity leave, and periods of notice. It is a problem which governments are only beginning to acknowledge and are far away from legislating to rectify, leaving tens of thousands of workers at the mercy of their unregulated employers.