The recent government shutdown drove gig economy growth, but what does it all mean?
After 35 days of political deadlock and disagreements across party lines, the most recent United States government shutdown that started on December 22, 2018 and came to an end on January 26th was the longest and costliest federal shutdown in U.S. history with an estimated economic impact of approximately $11 billion —and that’s only counting direct costs.
But while national parks and museums were closed and small businesses and homeowners went without loans, the overwhelming majority of headlines revolved around the many federal workers who found themselves in a state of financial uncertainty.
Hundreds of thousands of government employees and contractors were furloughed or ordered to work without pay. Many soon found themselves struggling to feed their families and handle basic expenses like health care and housing.
And here’s where one of the shutdown’s most surprising—and lingering—effects comes into focus. To supplement their income and make up for lost wages, a significant number of federal employees and contractors found work with on-demand services companies .
In other words, public sector workers in need of steady paychecks turned to the gig economy.
The counter-intuitive future of career stability
It sounds like the opposite of how the system is supposed to work. It used to be the case that if you wanted safe, predictable employment, you would look for a government position—and give up the risk and reward offered by the private sector. Evidently, in 2019, the script flipped.
Not to suggest this is bad or good news. Every large-scale economic shift has winners and losers. On-demand jobs look different than many people expect, and offer plenty of advantages to workers of all ages—not just millennials. Some people leverage the flexibility of the gig economy to make more money and advance further than they ever could in the traditional market. Others learn that on-demand work simply doesn’t suit their lifestyles.
Even on-demand company leaders themselves don’t know exactly what to make of the “new normal.” Take a look at what Brent Messenger, global head of community at Fiverr , wrote in a Fast Company op-ed about the shutdown
“While Fiverr is happy our platform can offer some financial security to those affected by the shutdown, we certainly don’t see this increase in activity as a good thing. There are plenty of people on the platform who are earning six figures, and even millions of dollars. But we also know that building a successful business on Fiverr doesn’t happen overnight, and in the short term, gig work isn’t comparable to their salaries.”
Workers don’t need to put their livelihood in an employer’s hands
Millions of Americans currently searching for stable work may have no choice but to carve out stability for themselves. While the government avoided a second shutdown on February 15, 2019, government workers may need to navigate fickle waters ahead, but they are far from alone as many economists anticipate a global recession in the next couple of years .
As we head into the third decade of the 21st century, gig work is looking like a safer bet than either public sector or private sector employment. Fortunately, the more people who join the new economy, the stronger it becomes. As Liveops CEO Greg Hanover put it in a recent article for destinationCRM.com
“Make no mistake: the way we work is changing. … But we’re not becoming a world of Ubers—far from it. A new economy and workforce is emerging—the enterprise gig economy. It is one where brands can benefit from a highly skilled, motivated, and trained workforce whose individual schedules are flexible but together are stable and continuous.”
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