How the Gig Economy is Growing in US/Canada and What Stakeholders Need to Do?

How the US and Canada Are In the “Pole” Position for the Gig Economy/Workers

The rise of the Gig Economy worldwide is one of the more notable workforce trends over the last decade or so. More so, in the United States and Canada, which are regarded as pioneers in terms of categorizing and classifying the Freelancer/Part Timer jobs as Gig Workers and formalizing and regularizing the ecosystem that supports them, as the Gig Economy?

Indeed, it can be said that the US and Canada have shown the way to other countries in terms of extending unemployment benefits to Gig workers, covering them under social security and healthcare benefits, as well in recognizing the Unionization of Gig workers. So, in a way the US and Canada have been the earliest to take all the steps mentioned above and many nations, including India look up to them to evaluate and emulate the rules and regulations pertaining to the Gig Economy.

This “pole” position of the US and Canada also owes it to the fact that nearly 50% of the workforce in the US and Canada is now counted as Gig workers and their numbers are swelling in the post pandemic workforce.

Despite Being “Pioneers”, Significant Challenges Remain In Regularizing Gig Work

Having said that, there are many challenges facing the different stakeholders as far as the Gig Economy is concerned. Right from the “difficulties” of counting who is a Gig worker and who is not, to the battles over the “raw deal” meted out to Gig workers in many states, and including the coverage of unemployment and healthcare benefits to them. Let us take the first challenge.

It is a fact that counting who is a Gig worker and who is a full time worker is a “herculean” effort as workers tend to alternate between Gig work and full time work as well as do both at the same time.

In addition, there is a tendency among American Gig workers to report themselves as unemployed full time workers to receive the generous benefits that are part of the unemployment insurance.

Another challenge is the recent practice of Moonlighting where employees have been found, to be working for multiple employers, including Gig Economy firms, thereby making it difficult to enumerate and classify them as such. The reason we are stressing this point so much is that you can’t measure what you can’t count and so, any step forward needs accurate, timely data.

Time for American/Canadian Employers to Treat Gig Workers as Full Time Workers

Perhaps the other challenge and a significant one at that pertains to how many states in the US tend to “overlook” the Gig Economy as a fully fledged part of the broader economy. By extension, this leads to “denial” of benefits to the Gig workers and meting out a “Raw Deal” to them.

For instance, Uber drivers in the US are eligible for benefits that a full time worker gets only in some states and even in those states like California, there are legal battles between the Gig worker unions and the authorities as well as the Aggregator App based Gig firms. Indeed, while California was the early adopter of significant benefit assistance to the Gig workers, it was not without a fight that such benefits were extended to Gig workers.

Given that California is considered as one of the most “progressive” states along with New York, they are expected to be at the forefront of Gig worker friendly policies. On the other hand, many states in the US and provinces in Canada “fail” the Gig workers in so far as even permitting unionization is concerned. So, the task before the stakeholders is to ensure uniformity for the Gig workers.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Class Action Lawsuits over Benefits to Gig Workers

Third, in recent years, the US has been beset with major and minor Class Action Lawsuits, the equivalent of PILs or Public Interest Litigation in India, pertaining to classifying who a Gig worker is and whether the Gig workers need to be covered under unemployment, healthcare, and mandatory leaves and other such “protections” afforded to the full time workers.

Indeed, this is the “crux” of the debate over the Gig Economy and Gig workers where on one side, the Corporates and sometimes, the Gig Economy firms themselves argue that they are not to be treated on par with full time workers, and on the other hand, the Unions disagree vehemently, leading to protracted legal and legislative challenges.

Perhaps it is time the US and Canada come to an “internal” agreement in their respective jurisdictions on how to regulate the Gig Economy. Of particular interest here is the question of whether women Gig workers should be given Maternity Leave, and whether the broader category of Gig workers are entitled to paid leave.

In addition, working hours and minimum wages that follow governmental regulations are another source of flashpoints. Apart from this, who “pays” the benefits to the Gig workers has been the subject of litigation.

The Pandemic Proved Gig Workers “Indispensable”! Reward Them Accordingly

Last, the Gig workers proved that they are “indispensable” during the pandemic. If there is a strong case to be made in favor of the Gig workers, their contributions during the Covid lockdowns make them eligible for their rights due to them.

So, as the Gig Economy grows in the US and Canada, all stakeholders must arrive at some sort of consensus on the challenges discussed in this article so that it is a win-win situation for all. To conclude, the Gig Economy and the Gig workers have become integral to our lives and deserve full benefits.

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Economics of Human Resources