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In 2016, the gig economy encompassed around 1.2 million workers in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, this amounts to 8.2% of all workers in Canada. This number is expected to increase due to the rapid adoption of different technologies like virtual reality, apps, social media, and other online platforms.
The ubiquitous nature of technology has reshaped the way Canadians work and live life. Both social media and online platforms such as Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Freelancer, and Upwork have made it easy for buyers and sellers to connect. Remote and virtual work is synonymous with gig work which has reduced the need for travel and workspace. This freedom has allowed Canadians more control and autonomy over their careers and the ways in which they choose to live their lives. Moreover, businesses looking to reduce costs have also driven the demand for gig workers. Companies often use contractors and freelancers because they are a cost-effective way to get certain projects done without having to employ anybody new.
Who Are Gig Workers?
Gig workers is a term used to describe freelancers and independent contractors. These workers are different from regular wage-earners because they are paid by task rather than by the hour. Meaning the will be paid a specific amount of money for completing a specific task, regardless if they take an hour or ten hours to complete the job.
Facts About Gig Workers
According to Statistics Canada, we found the following:
- Immigrants were most prevalent in the gig economy than Canadian born individuals.
- Older Canadians who are shifting to retirement are also seen taking part in the gig economy due to the flexibility it offers.
- Gig workers “whose main occupations are in arts, entertainment and recreation were about four times more likely to be gig workers than workers whose main occupations are in management”.
- Over 50% of gig workers have at least one other wage-earning job.
Types Of Gig Workers
There are two types of gig workers, contingent workers and independent workers. Contingent workers are employees who work for a company just like a regular employee would, except they don’t have job security or any benefits. On the other hand, Independent workers are different from contingent workers because they provide their own invoices and are not considered an employee of the company.
Though the work you can do as a gig worker is quite diverse, overall all, as a gig worker, you can fall into one of three categories.
- Freelance – are workers who provide a service such as copywriting, design, art, photography, marketing, etc.
- Freelance marketplace – are workers who use an online platform such as Uber to provide a service.
- Other – all other services and activities such as babysitting, yard work, handyman services, selling on Etsy, etc.
Pros Of Being A Gig Worker
People are increasingly becoming more interested in the gig economy due to the non-traditional aspects of being a gig worker. Autonomy, freedom and flexibility are some of the main reasons people are drawn to gig work.
Boost Your Income
When your primary work income falls short, gig work is a quick and easy solution to earn some extra income without completely affecting your work-life balance. In fact, as mentioned, over 50% of those who work in the gig economy have other primary jobs.
Make Your Own Hours
One of the most attractive reasons people are drawn to the gig economy is because it provides the freedom and flexibility to make your own hours. The greater your ability to structure your own work schedule, the better your work-life balance.
Low Entry Barriers
For those who are having a hard time obtaining traditional employment, gig work is a good way to get your foot in the door. For example, if you were interested in the transportation industry, getting a job as a Uber delivery or Amazon delivery person can provide a glimpse into what it’s like working in the industry. It can also provide you with the experience you need to move further in your career.
Learn New Skills
Gigs can provide the necessary skills and experience you need to transition from school to a career or even to a new job. By immersing yourself in various gigs you can develop different skills and build your connections in the industry you want to work in. Moreover, it can be the training you need to turn yourself into one of the best candidates in the industry.
Be Your Own Boss
Being a gig worker means you get to choose, when, where, and for whom you work for, as you are your own boss. With complete autonomy over your work, you have the power to choose which projects you want to work on, who you want to work with and how much time you want to put in. With no management, you have complete freedom to explore your career and pursue your passions.
Cons Of Being A Gig Worker
Nothing is perfect in life, and as expected, there are a number of drawbacks that come when working in the gig economy.
No Traditional Work Benefits
When you work as a gig worker you don’t get benefits such as paid leave, insurance, or retirement funds. Due to the nature of gig work, benefits are out of the equation as they are only given to full-time employees by their company. Though some gig workers have been advocating for portable benefits, it is important that you plan for unexpected expenses, get your own insurance, and save for your retirement.
Another thing gig workers need to watch out for is taxes. Most companies don’t deduct your taxes when paying you, that is something you have to do yourself. So be sure to put aside part of your paycheque for taxes. It is recommended that you work with an accountant so that you know what expenses you can write-off during tax season.
Humans are social creatures, so remote work isn’t always the best feeling. Some may feel isolated and crave the solidarity and culture that comes with working in an office with other people.
Lack of Stability
Gig work can be stressful as work is not always guaranteed. You have to be vigilant and constantly search for your next customer. Because you’re paid by task rather than by the hour, your income amount is never guaranteed. The amount you make each month is a gamble and you have to be prepared for times where your finances dip due to lack of demand.
Difficulty Getting Approved For New Credit
When banks give out loans, they require borrowers to have a good credit score and a reliable income. However, gig workers often have pretty volatile incomes which makes them risky candidates. This lack of access to credit products can make life difficult for gig workers who need a line of credit or a personal loan to keep their business afloat during financial dips.
Being your own boss is a double-edged sword as the freedom you have can also be your downfall if not used appropriately. If you lack self-discipline, it can become incredibly easy to slack off and miss opportunities because there’s no immediate consequence. Lack of management means you have to be stern with your self and create your own goals.
With all the benefits gig work provides, it’s no wonder the gig economy is growing. The flexibility and financial support it offers is hard to overlook for most. Despite the lack of benefits, overall, gig work is rewarding and allows Canadians to explore their careers and passions in a free and non-traditional way.
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