Evaluating The Global Shift Towards A Gig Economy

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Gig Economy

Driven by technological progress and globalization, labor market dynamics are shifting rapidly: populations are aging and in-demand skills are changing faster than ever. The gap between the skills people have and those employers need is widening, polarizing the workforce populations around the world. Companies have to find talent from newer sources and do more to develop and keep their employees engaged.

In this fast-changing world of work, what people want is evolving as well. Employees are working longer, learning more and seeking a better balance between work and home. Not everyone wants to engage as a full-time employee and organizations don’t always want that either. The ‘Monday-Friday, 9-5, job for life’ concept has advanced and much of the jobs growth over the last 10-15 years has occurred in non-traditional, alternative employment sector. While the uberization of work grabs the headlines, the number of people working in gigs is still only a small part of the labor force. However, the percentage of people seeking flexible, non-traditional ways of working is significantly greater. Today more people than ever want NextGen Work.

To find out more about how people want to work we surveyed more than 9,500 employees across 12 countries and asked the following questions:

  • How do you want to work and why?

  • What motivates you and what influences your work choices?

  • What experience got you where you are today?

  • What are your views on NextGen Work?

The results were then systematized and recapitulated in ManpowerGroup’s Gig Responsibly: The Rise of NextGen Work Study. Here’s a brief summarization of the survey analyzing the rise of gig economy and its impact on the way employers and candidates perceive recruitment opportunities:

Factors Elevating The Rise Of Gig Economy

Exceeding Popularity Of Work On-Demand

Platforms like Uber, Lyft, Deliveroo and UpWork have fueled the gig economy from San Fran to Sheffield, Saudi Arabia to São Paulo, changing the way we work. The largest of these platform business, Uber, grew from a startup to a facilitator of over one million active drivers in more than 350 cities in just six years.

Initially loved by the consumers for its app-based convenience and welcomed by workers for promising greater freedom and on-demand opportunities, these platforms have impacted traditional labor markets with a speed that most employers were unprepared for.

However, political and legislative hurdles have cost Uber more than $60m in lawsuits since 2009. The rising number of litigations have created new work for lawyers and policymakers as far afield as France, India, U.S., and UK.

Agency work and flexible working have existed for nearly 70 years. ManpowerGroup has been at the forefront, setting the highest industry standards and taking on full employer responsibility, HR management, provision of strategic workforce solutions and employment contracts, protection and benefits for millions of people every year.

Much can be learned from how these once alternative models have developed from the post-war era when female talent was abundant and thousands of women and men were placed into work. In fast-changing labor markets, with skills needs evolving faster than ever, values of adaptability and innovation and an employee-centric approach have never been more relevant. As the gig economy matures, legal precedences are sought and regulatory reviews requested. People are asking: “who is looking out for these individuals?”; “are they really as independent as they seem?”; and “who is the employer?”. The rise of these flexible models of employment continue to secure the protection of people while ensuring there is no prevention of emerging models of alternative work.

Repositioning Of The Work-Home Balance

Finding the balance between work and home today, has shifted from an impossible task or guilty pleasure to a hygiene factor. Today the business of wellness, fitness and mindfulness is an express cash cow. Much has been written about Millennials valuing personal time, but what works for one generation doesn’t works for others. Older Millennials (25-34) are the generation most likely to choose NextGen Work because it’s less stressful and gives them more time to spend with family. However, all things are equal in how both genders want to manage stress, balance family commitments, while having the money to do the things they enjoy, build skills and earn more.

Analyzing The Global Phenomenon Of Gig Economy

Demographical Dissection

NextGen Work is a global phenomenon. And, from a worker’s perspective, it’s a positive one. Openness to alternative models of work varies from country to country, impacted by a myriad of factors, ranging from the rigidity of labor regulations and the role of trade unions to the attitudes and the mobility of workers. Age matters too. Countries with a higher proportion of younger workers, in particular, younger Millennials (ages 18 – 24), are more inclined to do NextGen Work.

Emerging markets are most open to NextGen Work: India and Mexico are leading the way with 97% of people open to freelance, contract, temporary or independent contractor work. Mature markets, often with high levels of employment, are close behind.

U.S., with decades of entrepreneurialism and dynamic job flows, together with the flexible labor markets of UK, Italy and Australia, leans towards an openness to alternative work models, encouraging job creation and providing more pathways into the workforce.

Germany, Netherlands and Japan are more resistant to NextGen Work, while others are warming to greater flexibility following the global recession. Spain’s recent labor market reforms have lowered labor costs and increased flexibility in hiring, which created jobs, making them the fastest growing economy in the Eurozone. Italy is similarly reform-minded, and French President Macron has labor market reform at the top of his political, economic and social agendas.

NextGen Work could continue to reduce unemployment, especially among youth, increase labor force participation, address skills shortages and close the gap between the Haves and Have Nots. It’s not just workers that choose NextGen Work, business and political leaders see the value too. Multiple economies are witnessing this shift towards more flexible models of work and facilitating ways to accommodate the rise of gig economy to advance their growth and employment.

Generational Dissection

  • Younger Millennials (18-24) who are new to the labor market prize pay, learning and career advancement want swift progression. They see NextGen Work as a way to help them move on and up. By their late 20s, over 60% of Millennials have had the same number of jobs as the majority of their parents will in a lifetime.

  • Older Millennials (25-34) are primarily driven by the objectives of career advancement and learning new skills to opt for NextGen work. However, they are also starting to value balance and meaningful work almost as much as pay.

  • Younger Gen X Workers (35-39) are most focused towards work-life balance, with some choosing to career plateau while they put family first and log-off at the end of the day.

  • Older Gen X Workers (40-49) increasingly prioritize meaningful work and feeling appreciated by their employer, while pay, learning new skills and providing for children becomes less important.

  • Boomers (50-65) are getting a second wind. With proven experience and fewer family obligations, they are choosing encore careers, some for pleasure, others to supplement pensions. They are more focused on quality – they want recognition for a job well done and work that’s meaningful.


People and business want new ways to get work done. It’s time to shift the discussion from regulation and prevention to action: companies need to better understand how people want to participate and meet them where they are, with what they want. Flexibility, responsibility and employment security are not mutually exclusive.

Whether it’s young graduates trying to break into the workforce, mid-careers trying to balance caring for newborns, teenagers or older family members, people want careers that are more agile than the old job-for-life, full-time model. Appreciation and purpose aren’t isn’t just a Millennial thing either – you’re never too old for affirmation, praise and to change the world. People of all ages are choosing NextGen Work.

Employers need to become builders of talent, not just consumers of work. Individuals must nurture their learnability and develop in-demand skills today to stay employable for tomorrow. In a world of accelerating change, it will be skills and new ways of working that will provide career security, opportunity for growth and prosperity for individuals and nations alike. Policymakers need to develop new ways of providing employment security, enabling individuals to change careers and models of engagement during the course of their long careers. Consulting reliable recruitment experts and providers of workforce solutions can help employers enable NextGen Work and integrate these new ways of work into their operations deftly.

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