The rise of the gig economy is attracting headlines in the US and beyond. But as the sector comes under the spotlight, questions are being raised about the practices of some companies operating within this nascent industry.
The emergence of the gig economy has led to calls for stricter regulation of the industry — an industry that according to some critics profits at the expense of American workers. Uber faces a long string of lawsuits in the US and the company was recently convicted by a French court of violating transportation and privacy laws.
Providing gig workers with the benefits awarded to full-time employees is becoming an increasing concern for policymakers. With some gig companies labelling workers as independent contractors, many are deprived of overtime, health and 401(k) benefits.
Presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton has said that while the gig economy has created opportunities it is also “raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future”.
And with older workers accounting for a strong proportion of gig workers, pension benefits are at the heart of the issue. Automatic enrollment, lower start-up fees and increasing plan portability reflect how the retirement landscape is adapting to changing labor dynamics. But the continued expansion of the gig economy will necessitate new models of retirement planning altogether.
A recent report by CoreData looks at how the rapidly expanding fintech sector could potentially help address the retirement gap in the US by specifically targeting those working in the gig economy. Some companies, like Honest dollar, have already developed offerings catering to gig employees. The increasing proportion of Americans looking to benefit from the flexible nature of gig work presents the fintech sector with an opportunity to further expand.
CoreData’s report also explores how MEPs, the myRA program and solo 401(k) plans can help gig workers save for retirement.
But equally important is the role of financial advice. The advice sector will need to adapt to the changing labor landscape and help the increasing number of investors with part-time jobs and uncertain income streams develop coherent retirement plans. And it would be wise for advisors to start thinking about how to accommodate such workers sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if robust regulations will be drawn up for the gig economy. But a second option, whereby the industry listens to concerns and begins to self-regulate, could prove fruitful. Uber agreeing to form a guild for drivers in New York City perhaps marks a tentative step in this direction. The small concession could be a sign of bigger things to come.