what is the gig economy and how does uber and deliveroo model work?

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It's Friday night after work and you've had a couple of drinks. Top of your agenda is ordering a takeaway but there's also the minor issue of getting home to eat it. Luckily you've downloaded the wildly popular apps Deliveroo and Uber so after a few swipes, clicks and minutes you're sat in a taxi racing a bucket of fried chicken to your front door. 

These apps - and ones like Airbnb and Etsy - have changed the way consumers access services and how companies deliver them. Their emergence is part of a rise in what is known as the "gig economy". 

What is the 'gig economy'?

Technology has put consumers in the driving seat. Customers today can pick and choose products they want using apps that rely on a combination of the smartest technology and an army of workers to accept the job - or 'gig' - and provide the service. 

The phenomenon is also known as the sharing economy and is defined by the Office for National Statistics as an activity that is "facilitated by digital platforms which enable people or businesses to share property, resources, time and skills."

So in the example of Uber, which provides the technology in a transaction, a user would search for a driver using its app (demand), a driver sees the request and either accepts the job (supply) or rejects it.

How successful has model been?

Most people have either used a shared service like the above apps or know of the companies behind them. The ONS has estimated the UK sharing economy was estimated to be worth £0.5 billion in 2014 and is a growing market forecasted to be worth £9 billion by 2025. 

In 2014 it was estimated that 25% of the UK adult population are sharing online in some way while 3% of the UK workforce is thought to already provide a service through the sharing economy.
 

Good deal for workers?

 
This model of work does allow workers the freedom the pick and choose when they work and for how long. However, it also does away with things like job security, benefits, paid sick days, and pensions. Critics say this creates a tenuous environment for employees and can make things like retirement more precarious. 

On the other hand, though, the gig economy has seriously impacted long-standing industries and impacted many payroll workers in the process. Uber, for example, is putting the taxi industry on notice, while Airbnb is causing ripples for hotels throughout the country and the world.