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The Gig Economy

The world of work is changing. Digital work platforms have accelerated a trend towards flexible, project-based employment bringing with it both opportunities and challenges. Latest research into the Gig Economy (or the Uberisation of Work) from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) shows emerging trends in hiring.


Emerging digital work platforms such as PeoplePerHour work on the same principles as Uber giving access to freelance capability from around the globe.

At the press of a button we’re already able to find local dog-walkers, order our groceries using a range of apps.  Now employers can find talent immediately from around the world to take on specific work.   Whilst this could be a welcome solution to the skills and talents shortage and a real sea change in hiring strategies, it may not be what good recruitment should look like.

Imagine using technologies with the potential to assign people just when they’re needed on wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand.  Every worker would be under the spot light in terms of their performance and they could also be subject to customer satisfaction rating.

Since the financial crisis in 2008/9 a major reason why our economy has outperformed the vast majority of international competitors is due to our flexible labour market. UK plc is now close to full employment with nearly 75% of people (a record number) in work.

With a rapidly falling unemployment the shortages of skills and talents is the number one constraint on economic growth and for some employers this is becoming close to crisis point. 

According to Kevin Green, the REC’s Chief Executive, “Gig working’ is about to really take off and is heading for the mainstream. This is good news for employers who will welcome tools which help them access the global talent market. Current uncertainty around how the UK’s relationship with the EU will affect the jobs market is another driver for innovation. 

“Harnessing new technology which facilitates gig working can provide real solutions; but policymakers need to get to grips with these new trends so that the UK can make the most of opportunities. For the recruitment industry we want a level playing field on which to compete.”

There are many advantages for employers who are able to use gig workers from around the world to carry out specific project-based tasks.

29% of employers are saying these digital work platforms will become important to their businesses in the next five years. In other words almost a third of all UK employers will use them as part of their hiring strategies by 2021 - that’s a huge increase in usage.

According to data from The McKinsey Global Institute, up to 200 million people around the world could personally benefit from using digital work platforms in the coming years adding an eye-watering £45 billion to our economy and the creation of extra work for 766,000 people.

There is also a lot of confusion about what the gig economy means. Over two-thirds of employers are currently undecided or neutral as to whether it will bring more risks than benefits. 

One in five decision-makers (20%) perceive the use of online talent marketplaces as being more risky than beneficial for their businesses with 17% perceiving the benefits are greater than the risks.

Where talent is in short supply in the UK, having easy access to high-calibre professionals to undertake specific work projects quickly and easily is a very attractive proposition.

It’s clear to see why employers would choose to use an open, transparent marketplace to find the skills required for short-term assignments and at the same time having the chance to reduce costs.

With every opportunity comes challenges. In using digital work platforms individuals may find that the on-demand economy means a work life that is unpredictable and is terribly insecure. Most would much rather have good, well-paying, regular jobs.

It’s clear that significant benefits are available to employers who get this right and are able to address the issues of putting in place a contractual process that is robust and does not increase the risks from non-compliance.

Furthermore, appropriate legal protections must be given to non-traditional workers to ensure that freelancers, interims and contractors who find work this way are protected.

We need to get the right balance between flexibility and responsibility.


The full Report is available from


Posted on Wednesday Aug 10