Gig work, defined as any income-earning activity outside of long-term, direct-hire employment relationships, is not new. It has existed as long as work has existed. We know that the proliferation of app-based work through companies such as Uber, TaskRabbit, and others has made gig work a household phrase. But gig workers remain largely excluded from the systems originally designed, early in the 20th century, to protect primarily white, male workers in traditional employment arrangements. 

Surveys confirm that across a range of age, gender, racial, ethnic, and other differences, a growing share of U.S. workers are seeking out forms of work that offer them some level of agency over their time. As the number of gig workers increases, so does our responsibility to ensure that they receive the same types of rights, protections, and benefits enjoyed by other workers. But with so many contested issues and competing interests related to money, power, politics, and the law when it comes to how gig workers should be classified—especially at the state level, where most labor policy gets made—it’s getting harder to see how that responsibility will get met, if at all. 

We believe a blueprint for good gig work—one that addresses public policy and business practices and that’s informed and designed by gig workers themselves—could be what moves the conversation forward, toward fair solutions. 

Read the full article about gig work by Xavier de Souza Briggs, Adrian Haro, and Shelly Steward at Brookings.