It’s hard to believe that the gig economy has only been around for a little over a decade. 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 12 short years, it has completely changed the way we think about work.
The gig economy itself is also changing rapidly. From NFTs to litigations that are shifting laws left and right, here are five ways the gig economy has already changed in 2022.
1. Many in the gig economy are servicing the NFT industry
The first, albeit trendiest, change that has occurred in the gig economy this year involves NFTs. An NFT is a non-fungible token that represents a piece of digital assets such as digital art, music, or other media. They’ve been around for a few years but exploded in popularity in early 2021 when people started buying and selling them for remarkable amounts of money.
NFTs have already had a major impact on the gig economy. For one, 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.
In addition, the rise in popularity of NFTs has led to the arrival of litigation in this arena. In an article on the developing legal landscape of NFTs, Hauzen writes, “NFTs like any other assets, are subject to legal implications with respect to ownership, copyright, fraudulent trading, cyber security, and contractual liabilities.” While this type of litigation might not seem directly related to the gig economy, it will likely have an indirect impact as the legal landscape around NFTs continues to evolve and affect the gig workers creating these assets.
2. The Great Resignation is pushing business leaders to make more roles contract positions
The Great Resignation is a term used to describe the current mass exodus of employees from their jobs. Forbes quotes the CEO of Joblist, a job search platform, saying: “The pandemic was the catalyst for The Great Resignation phenomenon, but it’s likely here to stay.” This trend is pushing business leaders to re-evaluate the traditional full-time employment model and consider making more roles contract positions.
The statistics from Randstad Sourceright’s 2022 Talent Trends Report, released mid-February 2022, show that business leaders are embracing contract work like never before. The report says, “71% plan to shift more roles to contingent, project or contract to get work done — the highest percentage in the report’s history, and a 15-point increase from last year. One in four, 25%, report they already converted more permanent positions to temporary or freelance roles last year.”
3. Certain gig economy platforms are turning to an outsourcing model
Due to fluctuations in the gig economy, people have been trying all kinds of different methods to find solutions that work for employers, workers, and the government policies that are trying to keep up with human advancement. One of the latest attempts has been the utilization of third-party agencies.
This article, Gig Workers Were Promised a Better Deal. Then They Were Outsourced, covers the story of a person who thought they were starting a job with Just Eat only to discover they were being hired by Randstad, a staffing agency, instead.
The article states: “Just Eat’s Randstad partnership is an attempt to test a new model for the gig economy in the UK. As delivery apps struggle with staffing shortages and a new wave of legislation that is forcing them to assume more costs for their workforce, an entire sub-industry of staffing agencies are rushing to relieve platforms of the messy job of managing their couriers.”
The article also reports that there are several other platforms that are following suit. This trend could continue to have a major impact on the gig economy.
4. The Metaverse offers new opportunities for gig workers
The Metaverse is a term used to describe the growing virtual world that exists online. It is made up of platforms like social media, video games, and other digital spaces. The New York Times writes of the metaverse: “The metaverse is the convergence of two ideas that have been around for many years: virtual reality and a digital second life.”
As this virtual world continues to grow, it offers new opportunities for gig workers. Tech Times writes, “the developments happening in the tech space point to an upcoming Cambrian explosion of opportunity in the gig and creator economy, thanks to the emergence of Web3 and the metaverse.”
We are barely scratching the surface of the opportunities for creators in the metaverse. The article continues: “There are literally hundreds of new metaverse projects in development, each offering opportunities for revenue generation to anyone who wants to engage and more will emerge. It’s becoming increasingly evident that the evolution of the metaverse will see our work-life boundaries broken down further than they’ve ever been before.”
5. Lawsuits and legal reform abound across the globe
As the gig economy continues to grow, so do the lawsuits and calls for legal reform. In the United States, there have been several high-profile cases involving companies like Uber and Lyft. In Europe, countries are grappling with how to regulate platforms. Here are some changes around the globe that have happened since the start of 2022.
Belgium’s recent reform package, agreed upon by their multi-party coalition government, will allow workers a four-day workweek and more. According to Euronews, the reform package also includes regulations for platform workers: “Workers in the gig economy will also receive stronger legal protections under the new rules, while full-time employees will be able to work flexible schedules on demand.”
All it takes for a worker to be considered an employee is meeting three out of eight possible criteria, but it’s not meant to dissuade people from working independently. “If someone wants to work as a self-employed person, they can do so and will have more autonomy,” social affairs minister Frank Vandenbroucke said.
A new class action lawsuit in Canada alleges that Pizza Hut misclassified delivery drivers as independent contractors. Interestingly, “the alleged misclassification is a problem unique to Canada, according to Marinov, who claims the multinational pizza company’s U.S. delivery drivers are classified as employees, Toronto News Live reports.”
Uber has been hit with a number of lawsuits in the United States over the years. As of February 2022, there has been a proposed settlement of $8.4 million to be paid to misclassified drivers. This settlement covers a period of time before 2020’s Proposition 22 was originally passed, even though Proposition 22 was ruled unconstitutional in 2021.
India’s gig economy is growing, with predictions indicating that it could triple in the next 3 to 4 years. So far in 2022, according to a global survey by American digital payments services firm Payoneer, professional women freelancers in India are seeing a large jump in their average hourly earnings rate of 42% to $22 per hour in 2022 compared with $14 per hour in 2020.
What’s next for the gig economy?
The gig economy has come a long way in the past few years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. With new technologies emerging and old ones being repurposed, the opportunities for gig workers are endless. As we continue to adapt to a world that is increasingly reliant on digital platforms, the sky is the limit for the gig economy.
If you’re interested in learning more about the gig economy or need help managing your freelance workforce, be sure to book a demo of GreenLight. Our AI-driven worker classification platform is designed to make life easier for both freelancers and employers alike, streamlining the onboarding process, payments, billing, and compliance procedures.