Gig Economy Optimism Is Wearing Off

By: Kaydee Ambas · April 06, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes


A recent Wall Street Journal (NWSA) poll suggests that the traditional American Dream ethos is being replaced by growing pessimism. Only 21% of respondents expressed confidence that kids today will have a better life than previous generations.

Still, the poll found the majority of respondents — 67% — said hard work is “very important” to them.

Gig Economy Grind

Some experts assert the changing dynamics of the workplace have Americans working harder than ever. They just aren’t being rewarded as well for their efforts.

The norm of a W-2 employee who stays in a single position and grows with a company is slowly but surely giving way to the rise of independent contractors and the gig economy. Many are attracted to this alternative model due to its promise of freedom and flexibility.

But optimism for the gig economy may be dwindling, as some find the fruits of contract work are not worth the labor. These jobs often require employees to work as hard as they would in a traditional 9 to 5, only without access to stability, benefits, or predictable income.

Balancing Act

Not all independent contractors are in the gig economy by choice. Some employers classify employees as independent contractors to save on labor costs, according to the National Employment Law Project. This practice can cost workers by reducing both income and access to benefits like worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.

These trends may explain the renewed push for unionization by groups beyond factory workers, such as nurses, journalists, graduate students, and even baristas. Securing a sufficient and predictable wage along with benefits could help curb this growing sense of pessimism.

Perhaps the hardest work for Americans today is to find the right balance between freedom and security.

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