The gig economy is everywhere. From the food you get delivered to your door, to the car rides you take around the city and the consultants you hire for your businesses. These are all examples of gig work, which is a significant and growing segment of our economy.
Gig work is a broad term, but typically refers to jobs that are flexible, operate remotely, are often part-time, and use digital platforms. It’s different from the traditional nine-to-five model of work or business ownership, where people typically work a standard set of hours in a shared office space.
Gigs are growing
While the traditional model of work has been the standard for centuries, innovation has fueled a shift to more alternative modes of work over the last few decades.
In the height of the pandemic, gig work was vital for some industries like transportation and delivery services (e.g., Skip the Dishes, DoorDash), and grew overall as businesses had to shift their operations due to COVID restrictions.
In Canada, the exact impact of the pandemic on the gig economy is not entirely clear due to a lack of measurement tools and methodologies. However, emerging data from other countries indicates this segment of the workforce is poised to keep growing.
In Canada, the gig economy accounted for approximately 700,000 full-time equivalent jobs or 3.5 per cent of the work force in 2018.
The gig economy was growing at a rate three times faster than the traditional workforce in the U.S. before the pandemic.
The gig economy is expected to generate $455 billion in 2023 globally (more than double the $204 billion generated in 2018).
The demand for gig work is being supported by digital innovation with the rise of “gig apps” and platforms primarily designed for on-demand services and online marketplaces.
By their very nature of being easily accessible and specialized, gig work also allows organizations across various sectors to fill in gaps as needed, ultimately helping them grow without committing to full-time staff. For instance, a small business can access marketing support through a gig worker, even though they may not have the budget or need to bring someone on as a full-time employee.
Booking your next gig
The pandemic accelerated the shift to alternative working models, pushing companies to implement more flexible and remote work options.
As companies begin to delineate the geographic location with the function of a job, it will become increasingly feasible to outsource work and tap into different pools of talent. The gig economy is one avenue to attract young talent - domestically and internationally - for an organization’s business needs, especially with labour shortages.
Now, white collar, not just “blue collar”, work is increasingly becoming available through the gig economy. As the demand for more knowledge-based and creative skills grows, businesses will need to fundamentally rethink their models of employment to stay competitive in a rapidly changing work landscape.
Gig work is changing work everywhere
Younger generations such as Millennials and Gen-Zers are more likely to participate in the gig economy for many reasons, including risk tolerance for financial instability, a preference for better work-life balance and wanting to have more purpose to their work.
With gig work supporting flexibility and creativity, and including a greater variety of skills and sectors, the rise of the gig economy through the pandemic is a trend we are likely to see continue. This is anticipated to place pressure on more traditional organizations, as they will be expected to offer similar perks, such as a flexible work schedule, especially if they want to attract and retain young talent.
Much more to come
Not only are businesses starting to recognize the potential of the gig economy, so are governments. More than ever, governments are being called to mandate and provide greater financial and social security for independent contractors.
The world is redefining how we look at work in the aftermath of the pandemic. Canadian businesses should consider adopting different models of employment and pay close attention to the growing gig economy. Change is coming. And it will be needed for businesses to successfully position themselves as the future of work evolves.