What is the gig economy?


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Gig economy means earning a living, or supplementing one’s income, doing odd jobs, without a contract, only when it is requested or when it is possible. In practice, in the gig economy the work is broken up into the single performance, the single job that can be a few minutes or a day and that is the only one to be paid.

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The classic examples of works of the gig economy are home deliveries of food in mopeds or bicycles, the use of private cars such as taxis on demand, the renting of a room. Even the baby sitting of one evening or private repetition, in the strict sense, are part of it, but it has been the diffusion in the use of internet, of sites and applications dedicated to putting in contact demand and offer, like Airbnb or Uber, to make it a real way of working for many people.

The term comes from Jazz music, where it was used since the beginning of the 900 to indicate the engagement for an evening, perhaps as a contraction of the word “engagement”. From Jazz, the use has spread to the whole music world, always with the same meaning, and then goes on to indicate any occasional engagement.

In 2015, he joined the media after being used during his campaign by Hillary Clinton, who had also defined it as “demand economy” and posed the problem of worker protection.

In all the industrialized countries, where this phenomenon is more and more widespread, the problem of how to regulate it was born.

In Italy, the ISTAT 2017 labor market survey confirms the continuous and very rapid growth of what is called “accessory work”: the people involved were less than 100,000 before 2010, which became 215,000 in 2011 and reached almost one million and 800,000 in 2016. Istat notes that over five years, from 2012 to 2016, the number of employers who request this accessory work has multiplied by four and that of labor relations by five.

The value recorded by official statistics was one billion euros. The accessory work considered by Istat, however, is only that paid through the voucher system, abolished and then reintroduced in 2017 to avoid the referendum proposed by the CGIL.

In Britain, the estimate of casual workers made by a report published in July 2017 is similar: one million and 600,000 people. The same first minister Theresa May spoke at the beginning of her mandate of the need to end the “mass exploitation of workers in the gig economy”.

In the United States, 4 million people are estimated to work through online applications that could become 7.7 million by 2020, but the percentage of casual workers is considered much higher, even over 30% of total workers.

Among the electoral programs for the parliamentary elections of 4 March the only one to use the term gig economy is that of the 5stelle Movement, which speaks of the need for a “unified regulatory framework” and that for occasional workers proposes a voucher system similar to that in force. In the program of the Democratic Party is indicated the need to define a minimum wage, a provision explicitly referred to as “a form of protection for young people who deliver pizzas at 5 euro per hour”.


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