100 Years Into The Gig Economy & Here’s What We Have To Show For It

The gig economy has been around for over 100 years, and in that time, it’s undergone a lot of changes. Back in the early days, the gig economy was all about musicians and entertainers. Jazz musicians coined the phrase as they would perform in a bunch of different “gigs” to make money. Today, the gig economy is much more diverse. It includes everything from freelance writers to Uber drivers. So, after 100 years of the gig economy, what have we learned? Let’s take a look at some of the most crucial lessons below.

What is the gig economy and how has it changed over the last 100 years?

In some ways, the gig economy has always been around – as in, people have always worked gigs. However, in recent times, when a person refers to the “gig economy,” they’re referring to new kids of work that exist thanks to new kinds of technology.

According to Harvard Business Review, the term “gig economy” was coined by Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker, in 2009. In just about 13 short years, the way we think about work has completely changed because of it. The projected gross volume of the gig economy in 2023 is 455.2 billion USD – up 53.8 billion USD from the projected gross volume of 2022 and nearly double the projection for 2019, according to Statista.

The modern gig economy can be described as a machine and a movement. It is a machine because it is driven by technology and it has taken over many aspects of our lives. It is a movement because it has given power back to the people and allowed them to work how and when they want to.

How has technology played a role in the growth of the gig economy?

When most people talk about the gig economy, they’re referring to the kinds of work that has been made possible by new technology. Platforms are one of the biggest driving forces behind the gig economy. They provide a way for workers to connect with employers and vice versa. And, they make it easy for people to find gigs that fit their skillset and schedule.

Some of the most popular gig economy platforms include:

Additionally, massive tech companies like Uber and Instacart have popularized the gig economy while shaping it at the same time. These companies could not have existed even half a century ago as they do now. If you want to read about more talent platforms, check out our article, Best Places to Hire Freelancers, Contractors, & Gig Workers.

How has the gig economy changed the way we work and live?

The growth of the gig economy represents a shift in the way people view their work. Instead of a more traditional system, some workers choose to enter the gig economy for the flexibility, freedom and personal fulfillment that it provides them. The gig economy has given rise to a new generation of workers who are not tied to one company or one location or working specific hours.

The future of work is flexible, and the gig economy is leading the way. As we continue to adapt to a world that is increasingly reliant on digital platforms, the sky’s the limit for the gig economy. As this Forbes article mentions, the playing field for talent access has been levelled for businesses large and small thanks to gig economy platforms.

We have already seen some surprising things shifting the gig economy in 2022. NFTs have already had a major impact on the gig economy. Wired reports that, “two-thirds of US freelancers told Fiverr they’re servicing the NFT industry.” This is likely because the demand for creatives and professionals to help with NFT projects continues to grow. For more specific examples of the gig economy in 2022, here’s our article on the 5 Ways the Gig Economy Has Already Changed in 2022.

What challenges does the gig economy present for policymakers and businesses alike?

The legal landscape around the gig economy is one of the biggest challenges for both policymakers and businesses. There is a lot of debate about whether or not gig workers should be classified as employees or contractors. This classification has major implications for workers around things like benefits, taxes and job security. Classification also has major implications for businesses as we see in a slew of recent misclassification lawsuits.

The challenges that the gig economy presents are not insurmountable. Policymakers and businesses just need to be thoughtful about how they approach this new way of work, and HR professionals need to make sure their payroll provider can mitigate classification risks like GreenLight’s AI-driven classification engine can.

If you’re looking to tap into the gig economy, GreenLight’s platform and service will be there to support you along the way. Book a demo with GreenLight so you can hire and onboard your workers from anywhere in minutes.

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Alex Steeno

Alex Steeno

Senior industry analyst, adviser of multiple hypergrowth agencies, SaaS, and tech-enabled service platforms, Alex Steeno regularly contributes insights related to industry trends, growth marketing, and management consulting.

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