SPECIAL REPORT: A growing gig economy

Special Report: The gig economy


Millions of Americans are ditching the traditional workplace to work for themselves, but there are still some challenges for independent workers to overcome.

Independent workers say they enjoy the flexibility of the gig economy.

“I can schedule people whenever it works for them and works for me,” said massage therapist Jonathan Smith, owner of Body Restorative.

“I get to make my own schedule and it can by the week, not the month or year. It can be spontaneous,” said entrepreneur Jill Danner.

“I have my own flexibility,” said entrepreneur Matthew Swinnerton.

Matthew Swinnerton left the corporate world to start his own company, Event Santa Cruz. He now works alongside other entrepreneurs who rent a desk at Next Space in downtown Santa Cruz.

"I feel like we feed off each other and there are 250 plus entrepreneurs in here and we work together,” said Swinnerton.

"We all have the ability to collaborate work with each other share with each other. We have lawyers here, we have IP attorneys, copy writers developers, and designers. It’s just a full mixed bag of wonderful in one location,” said Creative Experience Architect Darren Odden.

Next Space was started in 2008 in Santa Cruz. There are now seven locations across the state and in Chicago.

"We think the future of the economy is really independent workers coming together finding community. We all don’t want to have to go to the office, but we all want somewhere where we can be with coworkers and friends and meet people for lunch and co-working really fills that need,” said Ryan Coonerty, Co-Founder of Next Space.

Next Space is just a piece of the gig money as more people turn to independent work.

A recent study by the Mckinsey Global Institute found that about 20 to 30 percent of the working age population in Europe and the U.S. are in some type of independent work. That’s about 60 million people in the United States.

“They also included those who make money from digital platforms. They included people renting out houses on air bnb, selling things on Etsy, anyone who has made money earning income from different platforms,” explained Steve McKay, Associate Professor of Sociology at U.C. Santa Cruz.

The majority of the independent workers also are not Uber or Lyft drivers.

“Uber only has about 400,000 drivers in the U.S. That sounds like a lot, but we have a work force of 130 million workers so Uber is only employing .1 percent of the U.S. labor force and it’s growing and it’s a new model, but the vast majority of people are still in standardized jobs,” said Mckay.

However, Mckay also said there are many risks in the gig economy.

“A lot of workers given the opportunity would rather be in stable 40 hour work, not everyone but the big percentage so the big question is how do you protect workers in gig economy? That’s a big question that will involve not just the market, but in particular government regulation and those who say they're not employers like the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, but who are in fact employers and should be liable and responsible for workers who are in fact their employees,” said Mckay.


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