Measuring the Gig Economy: Current Knowledge and Open Issues

Produced by: 
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
Available from: 
March 2017
Paper author(s): 
Katharine G. Abraham
John C. Haltiwanger
Kristin Sandusky
James R. Spletzer
Topic: 
Macroeconomics - Economic growth - Monetary Policy
Year: 
2017

In recent years, the popular press has been full of stories premised on the idea that the share of U.S. jobs that do not involve a formal employer-employee relationship is large and growing. Both media sources and scholars have adopted the term “gig economy” to refer broadly to these less structured work arrangements as well as more narrowly to the subset of flexible jobs mediated through various online platforms. The latter have been viewed as yielding an increasingly “on demand” economy where goods and services can be acquired through apps on smartphones and other web based applications. The current discussion regarding alternative work arrangements echoes an earlier discussion that arose in the late 1980s and 1990s (e.g., Abraham 1988, 1990; Barker and Christensen 1998). Then as now, there was talk of dramatic growth in the numbers of people working in contingent or precarious jobs – positions in which workers had no long-term connection to a particular business, but were employed to complete a specific task or for a defined period of time – or under other non-standard employment arrangements. The recent resurgence of interest in non-traditional work arrangements reflects the perception that new technology, along with the restructuring of business enterprises made possibly by this technology, is producing an accelerated pace of change in the organization of work that is having important effects on both workers and firms. Much of the discussion.

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