Working as a Process Manager in a manufacturing plant for the last 10 years has made Ravindra a subject matter expert in his domain. He has been a consistent performer for the last five years in the same company. However, his feelings for the past six months have been very different - ‘I want to work in newer areas, on projects that give topmost satisfaction’. And one fine day, he finally took charge by initiating his journey in the gig world.
The past 2 years has been good to him as he had completed enough projects to keep his finances in control and having full autonomy when it comes to task diversity.
That’s the world of a freelancer, and we now call them ‘gigglers’ who are an intrinsic part of the Gig Economy. Ravindra has the freedom of choice - who he wants to work with, when he wants to work, and how he wants to work. And this looks quite fascinating and stimulating from outside. However, this lucrative world has another side that’s generally overlooked by the majority of people. With autonomy and task diversity; the weak spots come along involuntarily. The goodness of the holistic package cannot be isolated from what we call the risks that get tagged along in the journey.
What are those? Let’s see each one of them in detail now.
Many of us are aghast to know that discrimination exist in the gig world too? Evidence of so-called “statistical discrimination” is quite often seen in many of the online gig working platforms such as ‘workers only in the United States are allowed’ or ‘we cannot offer you the project because you’re from the Philippines’. Un-denying the fact and not oblivion to it, here’s a piece of the puzzle that remains unresolved and may lead to unethical practices.
A 25 -year-old graphic designer from Nairobi slum uses an online gig work platform. He often changes his geographical location listed on his profile because no one will give him projects owing to his place of origin. Many of his clients believe that he is based in Singapore or in Indonesia, just as they are unaware that he is a college dropout, though he is good at what he does. Many other individuals narrate the same practice and states that ‘If you want to survive online you have to do that.’
'Sometimes I feel going back to my job. I really feel lonely and miss having a team’. Many a time, gigglers feel the pinch of social isolation. Missing office parties, team lunches and not being surrounded by members create a social dysfunction of its own. When you work at a company you can just have coffee with someone and that element is missing is always missing in this gig world. It can get very lonely and it can get very isolating at times.
This issue also gets compounded again due to the different time zones of your clients. The fact that most clients are in different time zones, many workers find themselves working unsocial hours like evenings, nights, and weekends. This is a barrier that is often overlooked by many and may result in detachment tendencies in the future in terms of psychological growth.
Benefit and Pay Gaps
One of the weakest spots that are widely discussed in different countries' legislature is the missing health benefit insecurity that is faced by gigglers. Gig economy’s flexible and short-term model of work does not provide the benefits and the protections that come with traditional full-time employment. There is no health insurance, nil life cover and no kind of any insurance. Also, they may not even be aware of all the risks they are exposed to as gig work does not legally fall under any commercial insurance. Though there is a great opportunity for the insurance industry to cater to this segment, the future changes will take its own sweet time.
Furthermore, when it comes to paying challenges, there is no minimum wage protection that is provided to gig workers. There is a significant pay protection gap for these kinds of workers. And many a time it is seen that with reduced pay parity, gigglers have longer hours of work with little pay.
Opacity and Overwork
‘In this project, it seems the scope from the client side has not been defined well. We have been slogging each day to finish the project but the client is adding up with newer versions that were not agreed upon. However, we have nothing much to say else we will lose the contract.’
Scope creep, overwork and opacity are some of the weaker spots that come along in the package of the enchanted gig world. The fear of losing clients and ending a contract without warning can be interpreted as firing and has a direct repercussion on even losing the reputation of the freelancer. And hence, it is often used by some organizations as a tool to get more work done at a lesser price as companies are accused of profiting from the gig workers' instability.
However, the better news is that many corporates like Airbnb and Uber are trying to mend the weak spots by progressively moving forward in managing and protecting their gig segments by bringing in simple, monthly and flexible insurance plans. In fact, discussions in different countries are taking place between corporate and legislatures’ hinting toward the next giant leap that has health insurance, retirement plans, other benefits and life security being a part of the agenda for gig workers that may lead to opening more doors in the gig market.
It is time to wait and see what the future unfolds!