What I’m Reading Today: So, About The Gig Economy…

So here’s something that sounds kind of boring:

Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Summary

Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Summary

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Source: www.bls.gov/news.release/conemp.nr0.htm

…but hear me out. In the last few years, people have been talking about how the “gig economy”- i.e. Uber drivers, Task Rabbits, etc.- is taking over and how the future of work is going to look significantly different from the status quo. As it turns out, these gigs are a subset of “alternative employment arrangements,” and this particular set of data hasn’t been collected since 2005- 12 YEARS! (the data here is from 2017, I swear my math is not that bad) I’m sorry but that’s at least a little exciting.

Except…it’s kid of not. Contrary to the intuition of a lot of economists and other assorted individuals, the numbers don’t show the explosion of the gig economy that we were convinced is happening, at least not as far as workers’ primary source of employment is concerned. If you don’t feel like wading through the official document, here’s a good summary:

How the Gig Economy Is Reshaping Work: Not So Much

How the Gig Economy Is Reshaping Work: Not So Much

Defying expectations, the first official survey of “alternative work arrangements” since 2005 shows that nontraditional employment has become less common.

Source: www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/business/economy/work-gig-economy.html

Of course, we don’t know what happened between 2005 and 2017, nor is “gig economy” defined particularly precisely in the context of this survey. If we really do think that the future of work is trending in the gig direction, perhaps we should be tracking it more frequently and precisely, especially since economists have gotten different numbers with similar-seeming methodology. (Duh, I know.) In the meantime, I have a hypothesis- the number of people in these alternative employment arrangements hasn’t changed that much overall, but such arrangements have become more directly consumer facing and consumers have explicitly been made aware of the employment circumstances of the people they’re transacting with. (In other words, there could be, say, gig manufacturing happening all over the place- and I’m told that this used to happen a lot way back when- but you likely wouldn’t ever come in contact with it.)

Anyway, yeah, that’s what we’ve been waiting 12 years for…economists are apparently quite a patient bunch.

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