The future is temporary: what the gig economy means for you
Welcome to the gig economy and part-time work. That seems to be the takeaway according to a recent Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada. Regardless of what people think of this shift in the labour market, it seems this new trend is here to stay, with the number of part-time jobs outgrowing full-time employment opportunities in 2016. In fact, there were 27,000 more jobs created for part-time workers than for those seeking a full-time gig.
The survey shows that taking up a part-time job was most often by choice, with students making up the biggest chunk, followed by employees who are looking for fewer hours (to raise a family, deal with an illness, or other personal preference). At the same time, the number of temporary jobs is also increasing, per an OECD report. Since the recession of 2008, contract jobs have become more common than ever, with temporary and contract work growing 12 times faster than permanent jobs for workers between the ages of 25 and 54.
So what does this all mean for you?
There’s also been a shift in the perception of gig, contract, and freelance work. These temp jobs are no longer frowned upon the way they were more than decade ago. In fact, more and more full-timers may now secretly covet their part-time friends’ freedom and extra time (which can be used to upgrade skills or take on a side gig). One of the biggest perks of this new reality may well be that in the gig economy, workers can often set their own hours to better manage time, so long as they meet their clients’ (and employers’) needs. But most importantly, you can work from wherever—home, a coffee shop, a library—and you decide when to take vacation.
A trickier career path
An article in Fast Company argues that it’s not only cheaper for businesses to hire staff on demand – it also creates more competition for talent. This results in an erosion of the classic career-path development, with companies favouring temp gigs that focus on harnessing and developing specific skills. But according to a 2015 TD Economics report, temporary employment can also pose risks to the economy as a whole: while the temp-work reality offers flexibility to employers (who can more easily adjust the number of employees during a downturn), the drop in income for laid-off workers reduces consumer confidence, driving down spending and, as a result, business profits and government revenue.
The need for compromise
What some organizations refer to as flexibility is for others just a euphemism for under-employment. A good chunk, or 25 per cent, of the people surveyed by Statistics Canada for the Labour Force Survey are doing part-time or contract work for the simple reason they can’t find a permanent position. So, job seekers need to weigh their options: While contract and freelance work offer the prospect of increased flexibility (and occasionally, even higher wages),
the inherent job insecurity and uncertainty that comes with the gig economy means that workers aren’t always able to plan or save for the future. On top of that, these jobs have no health and dental benefits, paid vacation time, pension plans, or other subsidies.
Still, for a growing number of people, having more control over work-life balance – and being able to work from your kitchen table wearing your pajamas now and then – wins out. And since it looks like the gig economy is here to stay, workers need to figure out how much uncertainty they’re willing to live with in order to put “free” back into freelance.