The gig economy – a changing workforce

Author:Mr Anthony Drake
Profession:Wynn Williams Lawyers

The internet is increasingly playing an important role in all aspects of our lives, including the important role of finding work. Likewise, the way we manage our work with the use of online platforms has dramatically grown in the last decade. It is clear that participation in the online economy as a source of income plays a significant part in the life of many workers.

What is the gig economy?

Gig is slang for a live musical performance. Originally coined in the 1920s by jazz musicians, the term, short for the word engagement, now refers to any aspect of performing or work.

In New Zealand, the gig economy is generally understood to be a labour market characterised by short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. It involves and allows people to have much greater control over their work life. For example, carrying out work from home, carrying out work for different customers somewhere outside of the home, or carrying out work involving driving someone to a location for a fee using an app or website such as Uber.

What are the problems with the gig economy?

What do delivery couriers, Uber drivers and freelancers have in common? They're all part of the gig economy. By its nature, the gig economy provides for flexibility in where, how, and when a worker generates an income, but it comes with a trade-off of worker protections.

The rapid growth of the gig economy has seen large multi-national corporations commence operations in New Zealand. There is a concern that, while those corporations provide workers with flexible working conditions, a segment of those workers are being (or have the potential to be) exploited.

There is a growing call to adjust the balance to provide gig economy workers with the same or similar protections that full-time employees enjoy. The challenge for any policy makers, game enough to take up the task of drafting new laws, is to find the correct balance between regulating gig economy workers and the need to maintain flexibility for those workers; often the primary attraction for gig economy...

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