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'Failure is an Orphan': On Giggers in the Gig Economy

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Abstract

"One result of the pandemic may be that even though we will undoubtedly lose many in-person businesses, we may have a more robust on- and off-line landscape of experiences and businesses available after the pandemic", shares a University of Illinois-based research. The gig economy, whose projected growth is around $2.7 trillion by 2025, has clearly facilitated the expansion of micro-entrepreneurship opportunities since sharing platforms contribute to the overall economy as a new source of employment while opening up previously un-tapped sources of income. The emergence of peer-to-peer business models has empowered countless individuals across the globe to earn money through sharing their under-utilised assets. The Gig or Sharing economy initially claimed to be able to redefine white-collar jobs and transformed the way we perceive the very existence of professional service firms. For example, why would you need to outsource a data analytics firm for a project when you have easy and quick access to experts, connected by a digital platform with global reach.
To cite: Mukhopadhyay, B.R. and Mukhopadhyay, B.K (2021). ‘Failure is an Orphan’: On Giggers in
the Gig Economy, The Sentinel, Editorial, 14th September
To cite: Mukhopadhyay, B.R. and Mukhopadhyay, B.K (2021). ‘Failure is an Orphan’: On Giggers
in the Gig Economy, The Sentinel, Editorial, 14th September
‘Failure is an Orphan’: On Giggers in the Gig Economy
Boidurjo Rick Mukhopadhyay and Prof Dr. Bibhas K Mukhopadhyay
A Gig Worker’ or ‘Gigger’ is someone who
is employed on a freelance basis, carrying out
short-term jobs or contracts, to one or more
employers. Some refer it as the ‘sharing
economy’ in the context of ‘collaborative
consumption', whose projected growth is
around $2.7 trillion by 2025. The concept of
‘contingent workforce management’ is
nothing new but has been reshaped by the
introduction of ‘gig economy’. Some of the
gig workers or giggers may rely on a website
or app to help them find or organize their gig
work, others may connect more with word-
of-mouth in this business of reputation.
Examples of gig workers could be delivery
riders or ride-hailing drivers working with
Swiggy, Zomato, Uber; DiDi in China;
Deliveroo in the UK; TaskRabbit, Lyft in the
US. Gig economy configures work to be
broken down into components that allow
tasks to be tailored and allocated as required.
1. Gig Economy and Entrepreneurship
Gig work and entrepreneurship have strong
interlinkages. Various types of gig work
To cite: Mukhopadhyay, B.R. and Mukhopadhyay, B.K (2021). ‘Failure is an Orphan’: On Giggers in
the Gig Economy, The Sentinel, Editorial, 14th September
within the gig or sharing economy
encourages new venture creation by giving
potential entrepreneurs a means to
supplement their income. This is particularly
useful during the lean times that many new
ventures experience, so maintaining multiple
gigs simultaneously could be a huge plus.
When the core business or full-time work
doesn’t pick up or fails in worst cases, gig
work gives the entrepreneurs a safety net.
Research shows that in markets with poor
credit risks, the gig economy provides a
source of capital to potential entrepreneurs,
thereby transforming them into more
creditworthy or at least less dependent on
(frequent) credit.
Broadly, there are two categories of gig work;
A) those who offer their services as
‘independent contractors’ individuals who
consider themselves as self-employed and
their ‘own boss’, and B) who work as
‘contingent workers’ and under certain
obligations with a company, a bit similar to
full-time ‘workers’ except the right, security
and usual benefits. Researchers have also
classified the above two categories into two
further classes, gig work in the ‘web-based
platforms’ (e.g., software developers and
multimedia, sales and marketing support,
professional services) and those who are
‘location-based (e.g., Airbnb, Uber, Ola,
DiDi). In both groups, however, the service
provider invests their own resources (e.g.,
Uber providing ride-sharing services with
the cars owned by the company or shared
cars with the passengers), and users pay the
fee while the company earns a commission
from each payment. Examples of knowledge-
based gig workers are largely found under
web-based platforms. And ‘online
reputation’ does the marketing for the gig
workers since customers read reviews and
goes on the basis of rating or scores before
deciding who to have the transaction with.
2. Statistics illustrating the dawn of the
Gig Economy
A study by the McKinsey Global Institute
evidences that 150 million workers in North
America and Western Europe are working in
the ‘on-demand economy’, i.e., where an
individual can partake in contractual work
instead of traditional work. While the
concept or the trend isn’t anything new, but
the growing number of individuals engaged
in the sharing economy is new. Research also
shows that 20-30 per cent of the Canadian
workforce falls under the category of
freelancers, consultants, contractors, and
contingent workers. This brings up the
consideration that companies need to make
around 'agile workforce' looking at the
future. So, the numbers not only verify a
trend but also hints at a projected nature of
the 'future of work'.
Further into the demographics, in the US -
the gig workers in the age group 25-34 years
accounted for 24.9%, occupying the highest
proportion among all groups, and 24.3% of
ages for 45-54 years. These percentages are a
lot higher in Germany, United Kingdom,
Switzerland, and Austria while comparing
with the US. For example, about 50% of gig
workers were under the age of 35 in these
countries, while it was close to 60% in
Sweden. It also exceeds 40% in Italy and the
Netherlands, as per a study by Huws in 2017.
It is well known that European countries
have recently suffered from high
unemployment while the U.S. remains
almost fully employed with less than 5%
unemployment. It can be estimated that the
proportion of young people in the gig
economy is growing in countries with high
unemployment. In the UK, the number of gig
economy workers is estimated to be about 2%
of the total population
On a related note, large investment firms and
also banks have finally acknowledged the
growth rate and success of the gig economy,
and therefore has become a key player/
To cite: Mukhopadhyay, B.R. and Mukhopadhyay, B.K (2021). ‘Failure is an Orphan’: On Giggers in
the Gig Economy, The Sentinel, Editorial, 14th September
finance partner for giggers, a lot the past
decade. Similarly, the technology platform
developers and web designers have a
renewed market growth. As mentioned
earlier, while the gig economy itself isn’t
anything new but the overwhelming
dependence on web-based services’
demands a fresh look at the sector. If a gig
isn’t on service available via a phone app, it
probably does not exist at all. Therefore, the
partnership mechanism between the gig
workers and the company that makes the
services available on an app is crucial.
3. Motivation and Adaptability
The primary motivation of gig workers
typically sources from the following -
flexibility, additional income, freedom and
other forms of job revolvement and rotation.
Due to the dependence of apps, digital
competencies are becoming a significant
resource and precondition for employment.
So, it is now a very common practice that
companies like Lyft, Uber, and in food
delivery services promotes and trains digital
entrepreneurial skills. This is easier said
than done, particularly for specific age
groups where the time and learning ability
required to pick up new set of digital skills is
slower than the pace of change taking place
frequently. Similarly, the rural-urban
migration of workers who seek gig work,
e.g., ride hailing services, takes them longer
to assimilate with new practices. Imagine
someone driving one of those old
ambassadors in the streets of Kolkata
without google maps or a talking car guiding
the journey, from a time where drivers were
recruited on the basis of their knowledge of
roads and regions, and when they switch to
driving for Uber or Ola. Besides
understanding the responsibilities and
company rules with regard to price of a ride
as set by the app, punctuality, etiquettes,
amongst others the digital literacy remains
as the key expectation. Flexibility, resilience,
adaptability, and fast learning ability
without the support of ‘colleagues’ or ‘peers’
are therefore certain requirements in the gig
economy.
4. Challenges and Determinants of
Gig Workers
Statistics from a study by McKinsey shows
that:
- 89 per cent of previously self-
employed freelancers were found
happier since joining a co-working
environment with a routine and
workplace colleagues
- 79 per cent of the surveyed
giggers said that co-working spaces
improve their social networks
- 87 per cent of giggers felt that
building meaningful relationships
with co-workers and socialising
outside work improved mental well-
being.
The University of Calgary conducted a
survey on gig workers, particularly looking
at rideshare drivers, freelance editors,
creative workers, consultants, designers and
online digital piece-workers these therefore
included all the groups that come under the
gig economy as mentioned earlier in this
article. Their research identified six
categories of challenges that gig workers
tend to experience on a frequent basis, A)
viability, B) organizational, C) identity, D)
relational, E) emotional, and, F) career-path
uncertainty. First and foremost, without a
predictable salary, the gigs don’t seem
financially viable at times. In addition,
without the essential administrative support
that usually is available in organisations, e.g.,
marketing, accounting and finance, it is
generally challenging to organise the
logistics of work - particularly when the size
of a business fluctuates over time. Also, due
to the lack of interpersonal and peer-to-peer
To cite: Mukhopadhyay, B.R. and Mukhopadhyay, B.K (2021). ‘Failure is an Orphan’: On Giggers in
the Gig Economy, The Sentinel, Editorial, 14th September
environment, identity becomes a huge issue
which is compounded by the lack of
communication with regular colleagues or
fellow ‘giggers’. This is also called as the
‘holding environment’.
The lack of clear-cut roles, which is easier to
identify while working for an organisation,
makes the concept of identity blurry. This can
make differentiating gig from the gig work
ever harder. Naturally, the thoughts of career
uncertainty are often recurring as a gigger
typically lives on a ‘feast or famine’ lifestyle.
The frequent highs and lows at the
workplace can potentially create emotional
turbulence at times. Finally, also the aspect of
‘what is my purpose at work?’, and giggers
are often found reflecting on how willing
they are to do work out of alignment with
their values. To find authenticity, a gigger
must identify what is the larger goal or value
that their work is helping to achieve, e.g.,
solving a problem that other services do not
offer in a given market, supporting a
community need, starting a new line of work
benefitting a society thereby creating more
local jobs and new supply chains, or simply
add to the workforce of established gig work
that is experiencing a growth both in the
regional and national economy thereby also
risking being easily ‘replaceable’.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.