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The Gig Economy and a Growing Gender Gap

By: Carla Chinski

Twitter: @thelatestbyte

Post Date: 2023-03-12

The Gig Economy: A Growing Gender Gap

The ever-evolving gig economy and its impact on the workforce have been focal points of discussion for many years. The year 2023 is expected to bring new developments and challenges, particularly for women and minorities in programming gigs. In this article, we will delve deep into the future trends of the gig economy, the positive and negative aspects, and the social effects on women and minorities.

The modern gig economy is a fresh take on hiring temporary workers for short-term assignments, a practice that has been prevalent for hundreds of years. This term refers to the job market in which temporary, part-time, or one-off jobs are common, and workers get paid for the "gigs" they complete. These gig workers, often termed independent contractors, are hired on an as-needed basis and don't receive the same benefits as regular employees. The job roles are diverse, ranging from driving for ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft to renting properties through Airbnb and freelance projects such as writing, graphic design, and programming.

One of the primary reasons workers are attracted to the gig economy is the flexibility it offers. They can choose their work hours, the kind of work they want to perform, and even the clients they wish to collaborate with. On the other hand, employers get access to a vast network of talented service providers without the need to hire them full-time. While the gig economy offers flexibility and independence, it also comes with its fair share of drawbacks.

In the digital age, where the gig economy is steadily replacing the traditional 9-to-5 work structure, it's impossible to ignore the grave implications of this seismic shift for its foot soldiers - the gig workers. There's an apparent lack of benefits that these independent contractors grapple with on a daily basis. They find themselves in a murky grey zone of employment, devoid of the conventional safety nets that come with full-time jobs. Traditional employee benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid leaves are like distant mirages to these workers, posing a significant risk to their long-term financial stability and overall well-being.

However, the concern does not end there. The lack of legal protections only exacerbates the situation for these new-age workers. Our existing labor laws, framed in the pre-digital era, often do not extend their purview to gig workers. As a result, they are left unprotected under the law, unable to claim rights like minimum wage, overtime pay, and safeguards against harassment and discrimination. This glaring oversight from our legal system makes them vulnerable to exploitation, threatening their very livelihood.

The dominance of ratings and reviews further complicates the precarious nature of the gig economy. The life of a gig worker in today's digital marketplace can swing dramatically based on their ratings on respective platforms. This dependence on ratings determines their frequency of work and by extension, their income. Such an unpredictable work environment leads to high stress and job insecurity, making it a survival of the fittest.

Even the age-old shield of collective bargaining power is noticeably absent for gig workers. Working independently, these workers lack the support of a robust workers' union or other related organizations. In the absence of such support systems, the gig workers are left in the lurch, often pitted against powerful tech companies with little to no negotiation power.

Lastly, uncertainty is the unwelcome companion of every gig worker. The unpredictable nature of gig work challenges long-term financial planning and hinders the construction of a stable life framework. While the allure of flexibility is enticing, the unpredictability often outweighs the benefits, leading to a precarious financial situation and a life filled with uncertainty. In its current form, the gig economy leaves its most significant contributors, the gig workers, hanging by a thread.

The State of the Gig Economy Today

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. Despite the looming economic slowdown predicted by the World Bank Group, the gig economy is expected to continue growing. Global market projections indicate that the gig economy will reach a staggering $873 billion by 2027, a significant increase from $355 billion in 2022. The macroeconomic picture for 2023, as painted by the World Bank Group, isn't rosy. However, freelancers can expect a rising demand for their services. In Payoneer's Global Freelancer Income Report, 32% of freelancers reported higher demand for their work since the onset of the pandemic, and over 66% believe this trend will continue into 2023.

Per LinkedIn's recent post, the top in-demand skills for 2023 are management, communication, customer service, leadership, sales, project management, research, analytical skills, marketing, and teamwork. The most sought-after hard skills include software development, SQL, finance, Python, Java, data analysis, JavaScript, cloud computing, operations, and customer relationship management (CRM).

Impact on Women in Programming Gigs

The gig economy’s rise has undoubtedly provided women with opportunities in programming gigs. However, it has also exposed them to a host of challenges. Women working in the gig economy often face discrimination and sexual harassment. They are more likely to avoid lucrative jobs due to safety concerns, and when they do face abuse or harassment, there are rarely any avenues for them to seek help. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women working in the gig economy often have to adjust their behavior and continue to work despite the challenges. Fear of reduced income prevents them from reporting harassment or discrimination to the platforms or restaurants where they work.

As independent contractors in the programming world, women frequently encounter various forms of gender-based discrimination. This could range from skewed pay scales to biased treatment in job allocations, further perpetuating the gender disparities existing in the tech industry. Safety concerns have also taken center stage for women in the gig economy. The fear of potential harm, abuse, or harassment often discourages them from pursuing lucrative jobs, especially those demanding unconventional hours or remote locations. This silent compromise costs them financially and curtails their growth potential, further deepening the gender chasm in the sector.

The plight doesn't end here for these women. When confronted with issues such as harassment or discrimination, they often find themselves standing alone, with little to no recourse. As we’ve seen, Gig platforms are infamous for their limited support to 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. It's a catch-22 situation where fear of retaliation or reduced income often inhibits them from seeking help or reporting such incidents to their platforms or restaurants.

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