Struggle of one-job workers intensifies as gig economy booms

Representational image of a worker doing office work. — Unsplash
Representational image of a worker doing office work. — Unsplash

The rise of the gig economy has redefined work for many.

As the gig economy flourishes, one-job workers find themselves ensnared in a relentless cycle, battling the pressures of a changing work landscape.

CNBC‘s recent interview with sociologist Alexandrea Ravenelle sheds light on the impact of this evolving economy, emphasising the challenges faced by those clinging to traditional single-job roles.

Ravenelle, an expert in this field, unveils a harsh reality through her extensive research. She delves into the decline of the one-job era and the emergence of “poly-working,” where individuals juggle multiple jobs, struggling to maintain financial stability.

In her discussion with CNBC, Ravenelle shares insights from her book, “Side Hustle Safety Net,” gleaned from interviews conducted predominantly in New York City during the Covid pandemic.

She underscores a concerning truth. She is of the view that in the gig economy, retirement becomes a distant dream for workers. The prospects of stability vanish, replaced by a cycle where fatigue or platform deactivation marks the end of gig work, without retirement provisions.

The allure of flexibility in the gig economy masks its stark challenges. Ravenelle’s interviews reveal a troubling trend—workers grappling with meagre savings due to unexpected tax burdens and the absence of employer-backed benefits, like health insurance.

The pandemic briefly offered respite as gig workers accessed unemployment aid, allowing some to pivot to more stable roles. Yet, for many, the cycle persists, tethering them to gig work without a clear escape route.

Ravenelle highlights a poignant aspect that workers initially viewing gig roles as temporary solutions often find themselves trapped. Attempts to transition back to traditional employment face obstacles as employers question the relevance of their gig experiences, thwarting their return to stability.

Amidst the gig economy’s rapid expansion, Ravenelle’s insights serve as a cautionary tale. The romanticised notion of side hustles belies the financial strain and insecurity experienced by workers.

The plight of one-job workers trapped in this vicious cycle necessitates a reevaluation of work structures and policies to ensure a more secure future for all.

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