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1207 to the 95: How Well Do You Know the Gig Economy?

WELCOME TO OUR EDUCATION BLOG! We hope that the resources, research, and information you find here will prove helpful to county officials of all levels as you go about the work of the people. Here at 1207 to the 95, we’ll be sharing information about various studies and reports, summaries of new issues facing counties, new policy proposals, and much more. The goal is to provide counties in Virginia with the critical information and varying viewpoints they need to craft policy, make well-informed decisions, and just generally stay in the know about issues facing counties across the nation.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER that the study summaries, issue briefs, and data we share with you through this blog are not necessarily reflective of VACo’s policy stance or viewpoint. We are simply making you aware of available resources, and will endeavor to provide information in a neutral manner.

WHY THE NAME “1207 TO THE 95?” Because these posts are missives from VACo’s headquarters at 1207 East Main Street in Richmond to the 95 counties that constitute the Commonwealth of Virginia. The posts found here are written by VACo staff specifically for county officials as they work to accomplish the ultimate goal: effective and efficient local governance. Always feel free to give feedback on what you read here, and continue to let us know how we can improve the content we provide.

How Well Do You Know the Gig Economy?

It is no secret that ideas surrounding work and the traditional definitions of “job” have changed in recent years. Most Virginians no longer expect to work in one job until retirement, and many hold a variety of occupations to find income security as well as personal fulfillment. While such dramatic changes can invoke uncertainty or fear about the future, it is important to remember that these developments also bring with them great opportunity. In fact, for many folks, the new economy has brought benefits to the work experience that were previously lacking. However, along with these benefits come unique challenges and issues that will have to be addressed. As a leader, in local government, it is imperative that one possess an understanding of the benefits and challenges surrounding the “new economy.”

Many county leaders are aware of the changes taking place, yet may feel uncertain about the actual impact, or how to take full advantage, of the situation. Knowing that finding the necessary information to craft sound policy can be time-consuming, VACo has compiled a few resources to aid in a better understanding of this topic. Dive into this information and learn more about what has changed, what it says about our future, and how you can see this new economy work to the advantage of your citizens.

We first encourage you to take a look at The National Association of Counties’ workshop entitled, The Gig Economy: The Rise of the Freelance Workforce, and, in conjunction with that workshop, a short report on data regarding this new phenomenon of “gig work.” Both resources provide an excellent overview of the gig economy and what current trends tell us about our future. All quotes below are taken from the printable report, which can be found here.

A Few Takeaways:

  • The gig economy is generally made up of three components 1) workers paid by the task or “gig,” 2) consumers needing a specific task or service, and 3) third-part companies or platforms connecting workers with the consumer.
  • The gig economy has quickly grown due to innovative online platforms. “The share of the U.S. workforce in the gig economy rose from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015.”
  • The gig economy will continue to draw participants. “The number of people working on-demand (gig) jobs will grow from 3.9 million Americans to 9.2 million Americans by 2021.”
  • Virginia’s regional home is particularly impacted by the gig economy. “The South saw the largest growth (from 2005-2015) in the number of self-employed individuals (27 percent) …”
  • Counties can take advantage of this boom. “Counties can increase their revenues simply by explaining to their residents that gig work is ‘real work.’”
  • Counties can help enable these economies to flourish. Now, say some experts, “…is a good time for counties to experiment and construct the best solutions” to the benefits and challenges brought by the gig economy.

Additional resources include the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, which is co-chaired by Virginia’s own Mark Warner. Through this Initiative, the Institute has published several pieces detailing the benefits, challenges, and policy questions surrounding the gig economy.

Specific information about those engaging in the gig economy can be found in the study conducted by Intuit and Emergent Research entitled, Dispatches From the New Economy: The On-Demand Economy Worker Study. This study details the attitudes and viewpoints of gig-workers in America, while also sharing the unique challenges and issues they face.

We hope that you will take time to fully review these reports and articles, and that they prove helpful as you move forward in the new economy.

VACo Contact: Angela Inglett



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