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Bloated Gig Economy: The Struggles of Freelancers

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The gig economy is nothing new. It involves the hiring of temporary and contract-based workers via online platforms. Uber, Fiverr, TaskRabbit, Upwork – you name it. These service providers are commonly known as freelancers or gig workers. Flexibility and short-term commitments are the key elements in the gig economy. As the gig economy is coming into the limelight, getting some crumbs from this pie is never easy.

Overview of the Current Freelance Market

Freelance Forward reveals that freelancers are representing 36% of the American workforce in 2020. Commissioned by Upwork, one of the main goals of this study is to assess how the freelance workforce fits within the overall US economy. There are 2 million more gig workers now compared to 57 million people last year. Being the most comprehensive study of the US independent workforce, it shows a 22% rise in contributed earnings by freelancers since 2019. They have brought in a total of $1.2 trillion to the US economy in annual earnings.

The Demand-Supply Balance in the Freelance Market

By looking at the growing proportion of full-time freelancers, the freelance market is indeed expanding. But it is getting even more competitive at the same time. The type of services that you offer matters a lot. While delivery services for essentials are in demand right now, book translators are getting fewer job offers. Like most of the industries, the pandemic does not spare the publishing industry. Bookstores are shutting down during lockdowns across the globe. Book fairs and literary festivals are cancelled or postponed. The announcement by Amazon in mid-March to prioritize delivery of crisis-related items makes things even worse. Other freelancers who are involved in marketing material designing, photography, and so on are earning less too.

Uncertainties and vulnerability of the gig economy

As a freelancer, dealing with uncertainties is unavoidable. The jobs are on a daily basis or for a certain period. Clients or working hours are not consistent. Task cancellation or suspension can happen anytime. You might be earning a lot this month, but not for the coming month. In terms of vulnerability, social safety net barely covers the gig economy. Freelancers are not entitled to any employment benefits. They don’t have health insurance, nor did they have paid vacation or sick leave. They have limited labour protections.

Some silver linings?

The new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) under the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package (CARES Act) may be some good news for the freelancers. For the first time in US history, the government has extended the unemployment benefits to freelancers on such a large scale. This PUA benefits will last until the end of 2020, with a minimum weekly benefit of $205. At the same time, freelancers who are eligible for PUA are also eligible for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

However, this additional $600 per week has already expired by 25 July 2020. There is another concern. State unemployment systems are struggling to cope with the flooding claims. The weekly-based assessment of PUA eligibility complicates the whole application process. Currently, House Democrats are preparing another $2.4 trillion stimulus plan with enhanced unemployment insurance. Although nothing is finalized yet, freelancers can keep their finger crossed for the time being.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

 

More Information About:

Content Source:

  1. Check out the results from Freelance Forward 2020
  2. ‘It’s a Race to the Bottom.’ The Coronavirus is Cutting Into Gig Worker Incomes as the Newly Jobless Flood Apps
  3. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  4. House Democrats prepare new $2.4 trillion stimulus plan with unemployment aid, direct payments

Prepared by: Yin Theng

 

 

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