Work­ers trapped in the gig econ­omy

Chances of mov­ing to ‘reg­u­lar’ em­ploy­ment is slim for those who do it full-time, says study.

Whanganui Chronicle - - Business -

Work­ing when you want and be­ing your own boss may seem like a dream for many peo­ple, but an aca­demic study re­veals that those who do it full-time of­ten get stuck in a trap, and their chance of mov­ing to “reg­u­lar” em­ploy­ment is slim.

A Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land study, which an­a­lysed data from 10,000 French peo­ple, from fin­ish­ing ed­u­ca­tion in 1998, through em­ploy­ment up to 2008, found those who started out in “gig econ­omy” jobs had a low chance of later switch­ing to a nine-to-five-style job.

The gig econ­omy is of­ten de­fined as be­ing made up of work­ers who par­tic­i­pate in a range of jobs with mul­ti­ple em­ploy­ers at the same time, or do short spells of con­tract work, mov­ing from com­pany to com­pany.

Work­ing that way is longestab­lished in ar­eas such as writ­ing and de­sign, but it has moved into other pro­fes­sions as well, such as soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, sales and mar­ket­ing, ad­min­is­tra­tion roles, and even the law.

Uber driv­ers, Airbnb hosts, and more re­cently, Lime scooter “juicers”, are ex­am­ples of the trend.

The uni­ver­sity re­searchers found young peo­ple who started out do­ing gig jobs were highly likely to be do­ing them long term.

The dif­fer­ence was dra­matic be­tween peo­ple with high and low lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion. Highly ed­u­cated peo­ple who had a reg­u­lar job at one time were nearly eight times more likely to have an­other reg­u­lar job in the fu­ture.

Those with low lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion and who had non-stan­dard em­ploy­ment were nearly three times more likely to have non­stan­dard em­ploy­ment in the fu­ture, com­pared to those who had a stan­dard job.

The find­ings come just days af­ter a claim that gig econ­omy work­ers were throw­ing their rights away, made by An­drew Barnes of Per­pet­ual Guardian, whose com­pany has been a pi­o­neer of the four-day work­ing week.

He told the NZ Her­ald em­ploy­ment leg­is­la­tion needed to be re­viewed to en­sure gig work­ers had the same rights as work­ers on per­ma­nent con­tracts.

“It’s time to bring em­ploy­ment law into the twenty-first cen­tury and en­sure all em­ploy­ees, gig or salaried, have flex­i­ble work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but also the same pro­tec­tions and ben­e­fits. This stops ar­bi­trage of hard-won, and nec­es­sary, pro­tec­tions,” Barnes said.

Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land Busi­ness School pro­fes­sor Eliz­a­beth Ge­orge said the op­por­tu­ni­ties for gig work­ers de­creased sig­nif­i­cantly once they switched from a reg­u­lar job — and many were found to be trapped do­ing gig roles for a sig­nif­i­cant time.

“There are all sorts of haz­ards that could pos­si­bly ex­plain the re­sult that it is quite hard to switch . . . the idea that you can come in and leave in this won­der­ful world of choice may not be that way,” Ge­orge said.

The re­searchers also found peo­ple in reg­u­lar em­ploy­ment were more sat­is­fied than gig work­ers.

They were also less likely to be hunt­ing for a new job.

“Sure, a nine-to-five job in the of­fice or fac­tory can feel bor­ing and sti­fling. But it can also give you se­cu­rity, fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, a sense of mean­ing and iden­tity, a so­cial net­work.

“If you dis­sect the mul­ti­ple gigs, there will be one that is re­ally their pas­sion and the oth­ers are sort of just help­ing to cover ex­penses,” she said.

“This whole gig econ­omy has been pre­sented as this great op­tion for free­dom and op­por­tu­nity but I think there is an­other side to it.”

HR Ex­ec­u­tive founder and di­rec­tor An­ge­line Long said young peo­ple wanted flex­i­bil­ity in their jobs, and gig work­ers did it to fit work into their life­style.

“The days of peo­ple want­ing to sit in an of­fice for eight hours are dwin­dling, un­less they can get flex­i­ble work­ing hours they are no longer pre­pared to do it — and they’ll take a pay cut to get a bet­ter [op­tion],” Long said.

The days of peo­ple want­ing to sit in an of­fice for eight hours are dwin­dling, un­less they can get flex­i­ble work­ing hours they are no longer pre­pared to do it.

“They don’t not want per­ma­nent work . . . they want flex­i­bil­ity within per­ma­nent work.”

One Auck­land Uber driver, who wished to re­main anony­mous, told the Her­ald he did the job to sup­ple­ment his in­come.

A chef by pro­fes­sion, he ride shares his fam­ily car around his ros­tered shifts — he drives in the morn­ing if he is ros­tered to work evenings, and in the evenings when he is ros­tered to work morn­ings — six days a week.

He said he had not con­sid­ered leav­ing his job to drive for Uber full-time.

“For me it’s about earn­ing ex­tra money to get ahead [fi­nan­cially]. I don’t drive to nec­es­sar­ily be my own boss but it does I mean I can do it when I want.”

This whole gig econ­omy has been pre­sented as this great op­tion for free­dom and op­por­tu­nity but I think there is an­other side to it.

Pro­fes­sor Eliz­a­beth Ge­orge

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