By now most of us have heard the “jobs-economy” is soon to be ancient history, with one foot in the grave already. Our new economic model, the gig economy, has taken over. Many blame this on ADHD-stricken millennials, and they may be right.
I feel like it probably has more to due with the continuing fallout from the 2007 financial collapse. Sure, millennials have jumped on the gig economy bandwagon, but people of all ages are adopting this free-wheeling lifestyle. Damn you Tim Ferriss, and all your 4-hour minions!
The big question is, who wins and who loses in this new economy?
Changing times, changing work lives…
At one time, a full time job provided people with the money they needed to support the “American Dream” or whatever version of that ideal other developed countries around the world aspired to. We got up at 6 in the morning, made it to work for 8 or 9, then got to go home to enjoy a few hours of sun while washing and waxing a new-ish car in the driveway of our suburban home — a home that might be paid off by retirement if we were lucky.
Medical and dental insurance were a necessity when it came to choosing one job over another. And, an attractive 401k had to be in the mix. Only a secure full time job would do. Yearly Christmas bonuses weren’t a tipping point for signing onto a 20 or 30 year career, but it sure sweetened the pie for those who were considered in-demand in the job marketplace that existed back then.
This was middle class America folks…
Then, a global sense of wanderlust mixed with a desire to have a better quality of life started to take over our collective consciousness. The modern workforce decided it’s looking for experiences that go far beyond that which could be had in the 72 hours of freedom which once existed in a week for most — this, after factoring in 96 hours a week for work and sleep. Now the collective wants to job-hop, either as an employee or an entrepreneur.
The Affordable Care Act arguably gives U.S. citizens more reasons to work for themselves, since the act conceivably makes health insurance more affordable. Modern giggers just want freedom from the enslavement they’ve all been subjected to for the last century or so.
Healthcare, once among the most desirable reasons to work for “The Man,” is rarely even an afterthought today. Why it ever was, I don’t know. I live in Canada, the supposed shangri-la of healthcare. Trust me, you just get the basics. People still die here all the time because they don’t have the money to create and preserve good health, or to seek alternative treatments for diseases most professional white-coats don’t have an answer to.
Dental insurance is the biggest joke of all. If you need major work done, you better have some Benjamins saved for all the work the insurance provider doesn’t cover. And, a new set of teeth costs more than two brand new Mustang GTs. Giggers don’t need a job to cover this stuff, they need an income with a higher ceiling on earnings — if they even care about such trivial things.
Industrialism dies and gives birth to the self-employed entrepreneur…
Industrialism is largely dead, mostly relegated to the disgusting, deplorable factory farming industry. If you don’t find a way to work for yourself in this day and age, a robot will indeed take your job some day soon.
This is especially true for the middle class. Sure, there will always need to be humans somewhere at the helm, at least til’ Skynet finally becomes self-aware. And, there’s always likely to be a need for folks to do the crap nobody else can, or doesn’t want to do. The middle is losing ground fast, and needs to find a way to make something from nothing — to create their own cash cows.
Unless you have truly in-demand skills and the ability to sell yourself to top-dog employers who have billions to make, and need your help doing it.
The middle will always lose more than the rest…
As has always been, the lower income classes never really win. They live week-to-week and have nothing to show for their efforts at the end of every month. In many cases, people in the lower classes may have the desire to make more money, but that desire is hidden deep within, and the hustle that’s needed to go the next level just isn’t there. So, the gig economy neither improves or worsens their position. The jobs nobody wants are still available and can be found on virtually any street corner in most places.
In-demand types, as mentioned above, will always find a way to make a living with the skills they currently have in their tool bag. And, if the job market gets tough, they have enough moxy to go the entrepreneurial route and make their own jobs working as consultants, freelancers, or private contractors.
Those who are already wealthy can stay that way if they’re smart with their money. They also contribute much more to the economy on average, providing jobs that wouldn’t exist if they didn’t hustle every day.
That leaves those in the middle.
And there’s a lot of personalities here to examine. Those who just want the 9 – 5 and the freedom it offers to their personal pursuits, including raising a family. Those who are working toward something bigger, like saving to start their own business or to retire in Mexico like a boss. Those who worked hard, or flat fell into something that pays a little more than normal and have nowhere else to go if their employer flatlines — I’ve seen this scenario a bunch of times, such as when the General Foods factory in my hometown fizzled out and thousands became jobless overnight.
Yes, the middle class needs to get their act in gear. The gig economy has long since arrived.
Adapt or go broke!
Main Image Credit: Mark Goble/Flickr