“I do see some pathways. There are some people showing it can be done.”
- Maureen Conway, The Aspen Institute’s vice president for policy programs and executive director
Improvements for Benefits for Gig Workers
The gig economy is about transforming the ways in which existing sectors work to allow access to people, products and services on-demand, 24/7. The gig economy is letting tens of millions of people set their own hours and choose their work assignments as freelancers and independent contractors. But the gig economy — which includes people from ride-share drivers to dog walkers to consultants — gets low marks for letting them earn a decent living and receive benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. The pay and benefits problems, however, are slowly starting to shrink, according to experts at a gig economy workshop held by The Aspen Institute.
Gig Work: Still Challenging
Despite the new and promising ideas described at The Aspen Institute panel, gig work remains challenging for many. A 2017 study from the Freelancers Union and the gig platform Upwork found that 63 percent of freelancers dipped into their savings once a month. Lyndsey Cameron, a researcher who has interviewed ride-sharing gig workers and been one for about three years, said: “It’s tough to earn daily bread. But [being a driver] gave me a lot of flexibility.” In a recent Fast Company article on the gig economy, gig drivers lamented that they have been earning less money from their work lately as companies hiring them have tried to cut costs. One Instacart driver said he averaged nearly $20 an hour before November, but in January, was averaging well under $15 an hour. And, the article noted, about 1,600 Instacart drivers have signed a petition complaining about their 30 to 40 percent pay declines. For many drivers at companies like Uber and Lyft, Cameron said, “the money they earn is supplemental income, but it’s not to go to Hawaii. It’s to buy medicine and pay utility bills.”
Where the Gig Economy Is Headed: People 45+
Angela Heath, CEO, Gig Income Guru for consultant TKC Incorporated and author of Do the Hustle Without the Hassle, noted that she believes people 45+ “are where the gig economy is headed.” She continues by saying, "the gig economy encompasses far, far more than Uber drivers.”
The gig economy offers freedom, yes, but it also does away with things like job security, benefits, paid sick days, and pensions. This can create a tenuous environment for employees and can make things like retirement more precarious.
The Future of the Gig Economy
While there are some definite drawbacks of the gig economy, one thing seems certain: it's going to continue to grow.