There is not a single, typical gig worker
I remember when Black barbers were forced to cut and serve as the landowner’s barber and like necessity is the mother of invention, Black barbers cut out a business model and began to furnish the same work and packaged it from servitude into a service-based business. Black barbers began to become very enriched by this model and carved out a profitable business. The moment hard times hit the white American worker his disdain for Black Americans grew. The Ku Klux Klan began to rise, and the white public opinion began to blame Black success as the cause of their suffering and financial woes.
That’s when white American men began to re-write the rules of barbering. The same old tactic is designed to dismantle the Black hustle, they started to use government to create policies that gave them an advantage in the marketplace. They began to regulate the skill, make a set of rules and regulations, and demand that you do this and do that. This would create a place for them though they originally deemed the art of Barbering a black man’s obligation of his servitude to white men. This technique is about carving out a place for white males to stay employed, head-of-household, and ahead of black men. Turning Barbering from a black man’s labor-business haven into a regulated occupation for white men has happened time and time again. And of course, the government’s job is to make it sound like they’re caring for your health and well-being, but it’s only a way to neutralize the threat of an ethnic monopoly and a way to capture, conserve and corral industry growth and opportunity for the white population especially white men. The key red flag here is that it’s always a democrat at the core of this tactic.
The irony of America is that it is the land of opportunity, but when that opportunity is being too accessible for the little (black person) the so-called “little guy” always turns out helping the “little guy” inside the big guy group. The gig industry started with Black Jazz musicians and of course, then here comes the American dream task force, and then it’s gone. YES on Prop 22!
Overall, people who engage in non-traditional work are slightly more likely to be younger than traditional workers.1 Examining different work arrangements, freelancers tend to be older, whereas temp-agency workers2 and online-platform workers3 tend to be younger.
Breakdowns of the gig workforce by gender vary by survey; some report that there are more men than women,4 and others that there are more women than men.5 This inconsistency stems from the fact that men and women participate in different types of non-traditional work and in different ways. Men are substantially more likely than women to participate in online labor platforms, and to rely on non-traditional work full-time. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to earn supplemental income and to work part-time than men, matching patterns of employment more generally.6 Women are also particularly likely to engage in multi-level or direct marketing7 and to sell goods online.8
In aggregate, the racial composition of the non-traditional workforce is similar to that of the overall workforce.9 As with gender, though, examining the different types of non-traditional work tells a more nuanced story. Agency temps, on-call, and contract company employees are more likely to be African American or Hispanic, whereas freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors are more likely to be white.10 People of color, then, are more likely to be in non-traditional arrangements that are lower paid and offer less flexibility to workers.
On most surveys, the non-traditional workforce as a whole is slightly more educated than the overall workforce. However, the educational attainment varies by specific arrangement. Freelancers are more likely than traditional workers to have a postgraduate degree. Conversely, temp-agency and on-call workers are substantially less likely to have even a high school diploma.11
Non-traditional workers are more likely than traditional workers to live in an urban area.12 There is a higher concentration of these workers in Western states,13 with a particularly high portion in the San Francisco Bay Area, where many online platform companies got their start.14
We have few data on how much gig work actually pays.
Many of the concepts we use to measure and think about earnings do not neatly apply to non-traditional arrangements. By definition, many gigs are paid by the task or project, meaning the idea of an hourly wage does not necessarily apply. In addition, many non-traditional workers are responsible for deducting expenses, making their gross earnings incomparable to W-2 wages, on which living wage calculations are based.
Since people turn to non-traditional work for vastly different reasons, their financial needs and expectations similarly differ. It’s hard to know when low monthly earnings are the result of low pay and poor work conditions, or the choices of workers who may not rely on gig income to meet basic needs. Furthermore, some forms of non-traditional work provide low wages and contribute to financial instability, while others provide much-needed income to smooth volatility from low-quality traditional jobs.15
Despite the challenges of measuring gig-work income, we do have some information about how earnings vary between non-traditional arrangements. Freelancers’ earning are similar to or above traditional workers, whereas temp-agency and on-call workers tend to have lower earnings.16 In addition, people who work independently to supplement another source of income tend to make more than those who rely entirely on independent work.17
The independent workforce is heterogeneous
Taken together, these demographic data suggest that the non-traditional workforce is deeply segmented. Some work pays particularly well, offers high levels of flexibility and control, and tends to be held by advantaged groups, often on a supplemental basis. Other non-traditional work provides low wages, and tends to be held disproportionately by disadvantaged groups, who often rely on it for their primary livelihood.
The gig workforce is not one homogeneous group. Examining the differences of experiences and needs within this population is as important as understanding its significance in relation to traditional workers.
The San Diego Monitor-News has been serving Black San Diego since 1986