Freelancers within the so-called gig economic system are more and more turning to digital labour-sharing platforms due to the autonomy and suppleness they permit, with 45% of gig staff saying the independence supplied by these platforms is preferable to full-time salaried work.
A report produced as a part of the BCG Henderson Institute’s Future of Work venture, titled The New Freelancers: Tapping Talent within the Gig Economy means that governments and employers must take a extra nuanced view of the gig economic system. The examine is predicated on a separate survey by the BCG Henderson Institute, the Boston Consulting Group’s technique assume tank, carried out with assist of Research Now SSI.
“There’s always this standard narrative of technological disruption – the highly qualified are able to adapt, but broad parts of the workforce might not be able to,” stated Judith Wallenstein, senior accomplice and managing director of BCG Henderson in Europe and one of many report’s authors.
“We wanted to find out if that narrative of the business for franchise Uber drivers and people who face Victorian-era type exploitation [for example] was true, and if people really do like these kinds of jobs.”
According to the report, most freelancers didn’t select gig work for lack of higher choices and, for a lot of, gig platforms fulfill preferences for higher autonomy and suppleness in each their work and personal lives.
“The most surprising thing was when we asked them what their ideal future was – such as, ‘Would you want to go, or go back, to full-time, salaried employment?’ – and most of them responded with, ‘No’,” stated Wallenstein.
Compared with 20% of these surveyed who stated they would like full-time, salaried work, 45% stated they might select to stay impartial.
“The elements of self-directed work – the ability to choose, the flexibility, the ability to combine it with other activities and commitments they might have – ranked very highly,” stated Wallenstein.
However, the report additionally discovered that gig staff aren’t confined to the historically freelance-heavy sectors of IT and transportation, stating that: “Digital freelancing has emerged as a significant source of primary and secondary employment in all major industries, giving virtually all companies access to new freelancers.”
The report went on to say that the proliferation of gig work throughout industries challenges the notion that the gig economic system is dominated by poorly paid staff.
“Low-skill, low-wage freelance tasks accounted for only about half of the freelance work sourced through platforms. Much of the remainder comprised higher-skilled, higher-paid work, such as software development and design,” it stated.
It is necessary to notice, nonetheless, that gig platforms differ wildly from each other in numerous significant methods. For instance, a platform that acts as a intermediary between an employer and a employee, the place particular person freelancers and employers can negotiate phrases, could be very completely different to a platform that straight contracts the employee or assigns them clients.
“I think that makes a big difference,” stated Andy Chamberlain, deputy director of coverage on the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).
“If the platform itself is engaging the person, offering some sort of terms between the platform and the individual, it changes to simply being a match-making service, so it’s all about how you negotiate with the enterprise – and if the platform is simply a facilitator to that negotiation, that’s very different.”
The satan within the element
In an try to take care of the structural discrepancies between digital gig platforms, the report additionally identifies 4 new freelancer “tribes” primarily based on the kind of platform they work on and the diploma to which they’re built-in into the consumer’s workflow.
“We realised that each of those segments work in a different way, and that people who felt they could negotiate their work, set their price and pick what they were doing – regardless of if they were doing it very remotely or if they were flying in to be integrated with a client’s teams – were obviously valuing the autonomy a lot more highly versus people who don’t have that,” stated Wallenstein. “Click-workers and Uber drivers fall more into that [second] category.”
However, the BCG Henderson Institute’s segmentation got here from extra interviews they held with freelancers, whereas the statistics within the report, together with these about freelancer choice, are primarily based on the survey outcomes which didn’t phase the freelancers on this method. It is due to this fact tough to tell apart what sort of gig staff held optimistic or damaging attitudes in the direction of freelancing.
Despite this, the report suggests a consensus amongst enterprise leaders that digital labour-sharing platforms are solely going to turn out to be extra pronounced.
Roughly 40% of respondents stated they anticipated freelance staff to account for an elevated share of their workforce within the subsequent 5 years, whereas 50% agreed the company adoption of gig platforms can be a major pattern.
More freelance, extra precarity?
With the quantity and significance of gig staff growing, there’s a threat that labour might turn out to be extra precarious.
Antonio Aloisi, a educating fellow in European Social Law at Bocconi University, has beforehand argued that mass take-up of labour-sharing platforms might improve productiveness, however warns that employment might turn out to be fragmented into “hyper-temporary” jobs, often known as micro-tasks, because of this.
“All these intermediaries recruit freelance or casual workers who are labelled as independent contractors, even though many indicators seem to reveal a disguised employment relationship. Uncertainty and insecurity are the price for extreme flexibility,” he wrote in 2016.
According to the newest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the present UK employment fee is at a excessive of 75.8%, with roughly 32 million folks in work.
However, based on a 2016 evaluation of official figures by labour market economist John Philpott, one in 5 staff – or 7.1 million – are dealing with precarious employment situations that imply they may all of a sudden lose their work.
Further figures from the ONS present that 1.8 million (6% of the UK’s energetic workforce) are additionally on zero-hour contracts.
“I’m very worried about precarity in the workforce – I don’t deny that in any form. I just don’t believe that the gig economy will be a massive driving force behind this,” stated Wallenstein.
The report discovered that in mature markets, such because the UK, US, Germany, Sweden and Spain, solely 1% to 4% of staff cited gig platforms as their main supply of revenue. An additional 3% to 10% reported utilizing gig platforms as a secondary supply of revenue.
“You see a slow and steady growth, but you don’t see a jump,” stated Wallenstein. “There’s not a tonne of freedom to believe we will see exponential growth, and if you see how companies are using freelancers, I see as much reason to believe that companies will actually make bigger efforts to reach out to freelancers for expertise and talent reasons, rather than just cost arbitration reasons.”
Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College who has been learning the sharing economic system since 2010, wrote in 2014 that it’s tough to evaluate the impression of those new incomes alternatives on account of the truth that they’re being launched a time of excessive unemployment and speedy restructuring of labour market.
“If the labour market continues to worsen for workers, their conditions will continue to erode, and it will not be because of sharing opportunities. Alternatively, if labour markets improve, sharers can demand more of the platforms because they have better alternatives,” stated Schor.
“The two effects will work in opposite directions – with destruction of demand for legacy businesses and growth for sharing companies.”
On the difficulty of precarity, Chamberlain added: “It’s not to say it’s completely free of imperfections, but overall we do think it’s a positive thing for the economy and for individuals and businesses to have these tools, which are basically just platforms offering different types of work.”
According to Wallenstein, by way of regulating to guard staff from higher precarity, the trade that they work in and the kind of work they’re doing, no matter ability degree, issues.
“You can argue that at the high-skill end of the spectrum, one shouldn’t worry too much because those are very similar to a lot of the liberal professions that have been around for decades,” stated Wallenstein.
“Digital platforms give them further reach with what they’re doing, but it doesn’t change their way of working, their income structure or the way they purchase health insurance, and so on.”
“We have to look carefully at each of the [worker] segments [when it comes to precarity and labour regulation] – where do we specifically have low-skilled freelance workers who don’t have the negotiation power on which clients they take, that are in a way fully dependent on the platform for this, and are the conditions under which they are working in line with the rest of the labour laws in their respective country?”