The term “gig work” has its origins in the US of the 1920s. This was originally used to refer to jazz club musicians who went from performance to performance and were paid accordingly. However, the term “Gig economy” became popular in the Great Depression as a way to describe workers juggling several part-time jobs or “gigs.” Nowadays the term refers increasingly to app-based jobs or where those needing workers find those needing work on digital job centres/platforms. The tasks involved are also time-limited, and one-offs, so the relationship is transactional.
The Gig economy therefore refers to various forms of temporary jobs whereby organisations and independent workers engage in short-term work arrangements in a free market system. The definition covers freelancers, consultants, independent contractors and professionals, as well as temps (temporary contract workers). Some work through online platforms, while others connect with partners and contacts off-platform.
As we define the Gig economy, an important sub-division is between local and remote Gig work. Local gigs require the worker to be present in person, while remote work, also known as the "human cloud", allows tasks to be done anywhere in the world.
Being such a broad category, the situation of Gig economy participants is particularly varied. Some workers treat their gigs as their main source of income, while others treat them as secondary. Some Gig workers are highly skilled and this mode of work is their choice, while some are unskilled and see no alternatives to Gig work.