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Read the full report here.
Growth in digital access and literacy and the emergence of online labour platforms have made it much easier and cheaper for individuals to negotiate short-term employment agreements. This has encouraged a growing number of people to take up flexible freelance projects or ‘gigs’ via online platforms.
Such platforms have expanded rapidly in recent years, and growth trends suggest this is likely to continue. It is essential, therefore, that as well as ironing out short-term problems in the gig economy, the Government also looks ahead to the opportunities it will soon provide.
This report does just this. It identifies flexibility as a crucial feature of gig work that attracts current workers and makes its growth a huge opportunity. It argues that millions of people with complex work barriers such as older or disabled people may be able to complete some work, but may currently find prevailing models of work, the benefit system and employment services too inflexible.
Flexible employment services will therefore be key, and this report offers recommendations for delivering them. For participants on employment programmes, job outcomes and the steps they must take to achieve them should encourage gig work where appropriate. This will allow providers to help suitable participants into the gig economy where currently this is not commercially viable.
Likewise, Jobcentres should support people to find employment on labour platforms where appropriate. Up skilling Work Coaches in the use of different platforms and building flexibility into the Claimant Commitment will help them to do this.
The Government’s online jobs board, Universal Jobmatch, should also be updated using a programme that collates the individual projects available on different platforms and a machine-learning tool that offers personalised recommendations. This could transform it from a traditional list of vacancies to a sophisticated and highly personalised service for finding work in the gig economy.
Since it represents only a relatively small portion of the current labour market, it would be easy for employment services to ignore the gig economy in the short to medium term. However, trends clearly point to a large and rapidly growing opportunity for many workers. Ensuring now that employment services are one step ahead could therefore have a profound impact on millions who may otherwise be written off.