From the perspective of the freelancers, theonline platforms, despite being beneficial while creating the buyer/sellermarket place, raise numerous ethical questions on taxing and data security. Theseplatforms also do provide workers with a steady stream of assignments, butfreelancers do not always get a stable income.
With periods of little to nowork, employment is rarely guaranteed. It was found out that most of the gigworks get infrequent jobs, as “14 percent work at least once or twice a month, 13 percent work onceor twice a week, and 24 percent work regularly in a week (RSA, 2017). Thislifestyle isn’t suited to every individual.
There is also a lack of employmentrights. As there are currently three types of employment status in the UK employmentlaw: 1. An employee, who works under a contract of employment and enjoysvarious employee protections and benefits.
2. A worker who neither works with acontract of employment nor is self-employed, and 3. An Independent contractor: Someonewho is self-employed. Self-employed individuals have far fewer employmentrights and benefits when compared to full-time staff. This often includes a nosick pay, holiday allowances or company pensions. A full time worker is entitledto getting the national minimum wage, but an independent contractor, whoprovides services to clients as a business on their own account may not beeligible to obtain it. “It is also recognisedthat applying the national minimum wage to those in the gig economy is achallenge as it is difficult to say when an individual is genuinely availablefor work and not simply logged into an app, for example.” (Buchanan etall, 2017).
Self-employed people have to track and pay their own taxesas well. The tax legislation only recognises anindividual’s status as either an employee or an independent contractor. Thiscan be complex for those working in the gig economy as they may be working indifferent places across various sectors. Brexit, which occurred in 2017, alsohad an impact on companies operating in the gig economy who rely on EU migrantstaff is heavily dependent on the relationship which is negotiated with the EU.One of the key issues to be resolved is regarding the new immigration rules,which might restrict economic migration to high skilled migrants. This could bea problem for firms who rely on foreign nationals to make up their workforce. There is a silver lining to every problem though,despite the issues faced by the design industry due to the rise of the gigeconomy. All the actors of the industry have found different ways to cope withthese issues.
The possibilities of surviving in this industry, regardless ofthe changing times, do exist, it would take more effort than anticipated. Beingable to face the challenges of an industry, while trying to build a reputationis the key to success. Designers need to adjust and adapt to this new realityand be prepared for it. For example, if the hiring company suffers a bad yearfinancially, a designer, despite serving for 5 years, may not be spared, as thecompetition is severe. But the gig economy allows one to utilize their creativeskills and create a different revenue stream for themselves. Designers are evenfound learning new skills that aren’t limited to their speciality. This wouldincrease their value enough to be retained by the current employer, even duringthe tough times. This would make the in house designers a necessary businessexpense, as they would find ways to quantify their effect on the business.
Withthe oversaturation of the job market, it could be implied that majority of thetalent available would be average at best. So by outperforming the competition,newcomers can find a way to cope with the creative individuals they arecompeting against. Quality would always be the key when it comes to playing thefield. New comers and struggling amateurs would have their resolve tested by employers,clients and the competition.
In addition to building a strong portfolio,freelancers and new designers constantly network, with both potential employersas well as any individual who would potentially refer you in the event of a newopportunity.Inconclusion, the increase in Gig workers, particularly in the UK design industryhas risen three key questions that highlight the points discussed: Is thedesign sector ready for the implications brought on with the rise of the Gigeconomy? Will the Government recognise the creative individuals who are self-employed,and provide them with equal rights as those who work under a contract? Will thedesign sector adapt and learn methods of educating the new designers, whilestill maintaining the established designers? The ‘Gig Economy’ has affected andchanged the face of the design industry both in terms of employment as well asopportunities. Despite its setbacks, the gig economy, which itself falls under the umbrellasof the sharing economy and the ‘platform economy’, is a much bigger phenomenon.It has its own benefits and disadvantages, that influence theindustry on a whole. comprehensive research suggest that the gig economy could grow exponentiallyover coming years. (RSA, 2017) Greater awareness is needed among policymakers, actorsof the design industry and the public of this diverse and vastly growing sector.
Though there are certain short term issues that can be dealt with, throughupdating and clarifying the laws and regulations that have been applied, a lessbinary approach to the concept of the gig economy would also be beneficial.