Working Alone Together Cooperative and Trade Union Solutions for the Gig Economy
A proliferation of atypical forms of work in Europe has become known as ‘The Gig Economy’. For many, a permanent state of social economic uncertainty is the new normal. Casual work, temping, zero hour contracts and diverse forms of self-employment are characteristic of this brave new world of ‘precarious work’.
Self-employment has become the new yeast in the UK economy dough. 4.6 million today are self-employed (15% of the workforce) and since 2008 they have created two-thirds of new jobs. The record rise of self-employment is unprecedented. By 2018 it is expected that more people will be in self-employment than in public sector jobs.
While a proportion of the self-employed do well financially, they are today the exception. Indeed the stereotype of the self-employed as small businesses is less true than ever before. 83% of the UK self-employed work alone. Average earnings are far too low to employ anyone else. The median annual income of the self-employed plummeted from £15,000 in 2008 to £10,400 in 2013. Low pay however is only part of the picture. An absence of worker rights and support services aggravates hardship and makes matters worse.