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The Gig Economy and a Growing Gender Gap

By: Anonymous

Twitter: @thelatestbyte

Post Date: 2024-07-11

The Gig Economy and Gender Gap

Though the world is advancing at different paces, the gender gap is still seen everywhere. It may be due to culture, limitation of strengths, work-life balance, type of work, etc. However, the gender gap and the gig economy have a direct connection. More specifically, the gig economy has a significant impact on the growing gender gap, despite offering flexibility and autonomy to individual in their work. Let's explore the significance of the gig economy and its impact on the gender gap. 

Understanding Gig Economy

A gig economy refers to the labor market that offers to make short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to secure and permanent jobs. This economy is characterized by independent freelancers or workers who provide services for a specific project and encompasses a wide range of work like ride-sharing, food delivery, graphic design, writing, software development, video making, etc. According to the American Opportunity Survey conducted by McKinsey in 2022, 36% of employed Americans were independent workers, up from 27% in 2016. As of 2023, there are 1.57 billion freelancers globally, making up 46.4% of the total workforce. Global market projections indicate that the gig economy will reach a staggering $873 billion by 2027, a significant increase from $355 billion in 2022.

Platforms like Uber, Upwork, Fiverr, Food Panda, and Airbnb have become household names for those individuals who prefer to work independently with short-term contracts. According to the Pew Research Center, around 16% of Americans have earned money through these online gig platforms (the platforms mentioned earlier). Despite providing flexibility and independence in work, it has some demerits like workers not getting any health insurance, retirement plans, and paid-for leaves that the traditional employees get. So, these issues may indicate a significant risk to short-term contractors' or freelancers' long-term financial stability and overall well-being. 

The Gender Disparity in the Gig Economy

The gig economy is known for its flexible nature, but there is a controversy still existing in it which is the gender gap. The wider benefits of the gig economy are not distributed equally among men and women. Here are some key points regarding gig economy and gig economy. 

Earning Disparity: The JPMorgan Chase Institute highlighted in research that 25% of women in the gig economy earn less than their male counterparts. This disparity can be determined by the type of work, cultural and societal norms, and hours worked. For example, men are more likely to get high-paying contracts on platforms like Upwork rather than women. But it is rare to see that women are providing ride share, developing software, and tech-related services. 

Type of Work: In the gig economy, it can be seen that women are more likely to engage in lower-paying freelance work like care services, virtual assistance, content writing, and non-technical jobs. On the other hand, men are more likely to engage in high-paying jobs like software development, ride-sharing, etc. 

Hours Worked: This economy provides flexibility in time of work to individuals. By leveraging this flexibility, women are seen to work fewer hours than men because they need to make a work-life balance 'specially for the mother.' These fewer work hours lead to make less money by women compared to men. 

Factors Contribute to the Gender Gap

Societal Norms and Expectations

Culture is a multifaceted and complex concept that encompasses the norms, beliefs, behaviors, values, symbols, customers, and artifacts that represent a group or society. Cultural beliefs, traditional gender roles, and societal expectations are influencing what type of gig work they (men and women) undertake. To date, there are a lot of cultures and societies that expect 'women to take charge of household duties extensively which leads to create challenges for them to complete the gig jobs on time.'

Safety Concern

Safety is a highly recommended concern in the gig economy for women because there is no specific work policy for the individual since it is a short-term contract. So, society and culture are expected to do a less risky and safe job by women. By following this, most of the time women are expected to secure low-paying gig work like tutoring, virtual assistance, care service, etc. which are normally lower-paid and less stable jobs. Gig platforms are infamous for their limited support of workers' concerns. Consequently, these women are compelled to alter their behavior or continue working under duress, forging a distressing narrative of survival in the gig economy.

Access to Technology and Resources

Individuals are paying high who have better access to technologies and resources. In this case, men have better opportunities to get high-paying gigs because they tend to have access to technologies and resources. The opposite thing happens with women. They may face difficulties in managing costly resources and access to diverse networks due to having limited financial resources compared to men. For example, to work as a graphic designer, an individual needs to have a high-end computer and software which are costly. It is hard to manage for a woman resulting in a gender gap.

Discrimination and Bias

As independent contractors in every sector, women frequently encounter various forms of gender-based discrimination. This could range from skewed pay scales to biased treatment in job allocations. These result in less professional growth, reduce earning potential, and limit their opportunities. Stereotypes about gender roles are a big hindrance for women to get better opportunities in the gig economy. 

Recommendations for Mitigating the Gender Gap

  • Government and policymakers in every nation can introduce acts and regulations to ensure safety, fair pay, fair priorities, and proper working conditions for gig workers (all men and women).
  • Platforms should be characterized by policies that give equal respect and priority to all genders. The platforms must be defined with transparent payment structures, initiatives to support female gig workers, and measures to prevent discrimination. 
  • Society and the community should build support networks so that female gig workers can freely express their problems and challenges within the gig economy and get support to overcome them.

So, the article has concluded that the gig economy offers both opportunities and challenges for gig workers ', especially for women gig workers. The challenges including pay disparity, gender bias or discrimination, etc. are responsible for the growing gender gap. So, the authority, government, society, and policymakers should take immediate action to create a more equitable gig economy where both men and women can thrive.

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