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gig economy

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Definition

The gig economy involves using freelance or temporary workers to perform jobs normally associated with the service sector. This work is frequently characterized by taking place outside of standard 9-5 work hours, and workers frequently have minimal direct contact with their employers.

Recently, companies such as Lyft and Uber have fought to have their workers categorized as independent contractors rather than employees. Specifically, in 2020, Uber and Lyft spearheaded a ballot initiative in California, Proposition 22, to create an exemption to allow app-based companies to classify their drivers as “independent contractors” rather than “employees,” thus leaving them exempt from mandatory employee benefits (paid sick leave, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, etc.). The campaign often focused on the supposed perks of gig work, such as the ability to choose one’s schedule, though critics point out that maintaining workers’ statuses as gig workers would reduce their ability to advocate for greater rights and pay.

Sometimes gig work is referred to with terms like “side hustle,” which may have more positive connotations. Labor advocates have rejected this language, arguing that it obscures the labor behind such activities.

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Summary

The gig economy involves using freelance or temporary workers to perform jobs normally associated with the service sector such as food delivery, ride-hail driving, freelance tasks including manual labor (e.g., movers), pet and house sitting, and shopping. More euphemistic terms like “side hustle” are generally best reserved for direct quotes, as this may present such activities in overly cheery terms that obscure the labor behind them.