The gig economy has been on the rise for several years, and many reports point to a continued trend. Simply put, this term describes the scenario of American workers taking on both side gigs and cobbling together a living from an array short-term work or longer-term contracted jobs.
Findings show that if the gig economy keeps growing at its current rate, more than half of all US workers will participate by 2027. An annual report from Upwork and the Freelancers Union found that more people than ever are choosing to operate as freelancers, up to whopping 55 million this year, or 35% of the total U.S. workforce. In addition, as many as 81% of traditional workers they surveyed said they would “be willing to do additional work outside of [their] primary job if it was available and enabled [them] to make more money.”
Fast Company asked Faith Popcorn, CEO and founder of Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, to share her thinking about why we are seeing this rise in the Gig Economy. Popcorn is a noted futurist and a best-selling author who has a proven 95% accuracy rate in her predictions. She said not to overlook the impact Millennials will have on the gig economy. The largest cohort in the workforce “inherited a bad economy, have little prospect of home ownership, and come bearing deep college debt,” Popcorn said, so “the idea of one career seems increasingly untenable.” She believes that automation and AI will only accelerate the rise of gigging (or having “side-hustles”). “Ironically, automations like self-driving cars will eliminate some jobs (i.e., driving for Uber), and give way to new forms of gigging yet undiscovered,” she says. While many think of the gig economy being driven by those who take the wheel of a ride-sharing car, staff an Amazon warehouse during holiday crunch time, or do short-term coding projects, it’s anticipating that gigging will spread to the highest echelons of the workforce. Healthcare workers, for instance, may benefit from the gig economy, and by entering into this sort of agreement, costs will be better managed, say some experts.
Popcorn added that these shifts will have the greatest impact on millennials, creating something she calls the “Living in the Blur” paradigm, which is driven by the 99 Lives Trend. “It’s a tech-enabled, nomadic existence in which there’s a constant mix of business and pleasure; where traveling for a job is no problem in a Sharing Economy; where professional and creative passions are pursued one moment, and the next, one is all but an automaton, tackling Mechanical Turk tagging projects,” she said. “These contradictions will cohabitate as we deal with the economic and industrial fallout of a quickly morphing society.”
These shifts will accelerate as jobs and dayparts atomize and people live what Faith calls a 25/8 existence – an intensified version of the 24/7 lifestyle known today. Consumers will increasingly be part of coworking/coliving hubs, similar to those pioneered by Remote Year and Roam. They will move seamlessly around the globe, working from anywhere (perhaps even from the open seas, thanks to Coboat, a coworking boat), and forging family-like relationships in each of their favorite locations.
But we’re not there yet. Amazon is clearly already interested in being at the forefront of seamless transactions, with their Prime, Now and Dash services, and their explorations of next-generation bricks and mortar. Its test of a “frictionless”/no-checkout brick and mortar store in Seattle last winter was the first hint to a future with far fewer cashiers at retail locations worldwide. Could this acquisition point to a much sharper tipping point for the industry? Is this the beginning of the end for grocery and other big box retailers whose existence is rooted to the massive real estate upon which they rest? This is a vital step as we transition from the status quo to our tech-enabled, on-demand future. Faith foresees a future in which we move from our current stores to new intuitive ones to virtual ones – we’ll employ our Virtual Reality technology and shop in a universe of stores that are hosted in the cloud.
For more about this new economy, you can check out the full FastCompany article here.
Article Updated from Original March 2017 Post
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