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Is the gig economy back? Number of jobs – and workers – at Upwork surges

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As of the date this article was published, 30 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment insurance for the first time. This means that millions of people are not only looking for new jobs, but they’re also looking for a little side work to make ends meet.

It was surprising, then, when we observed a massive purge of user accounts at gig-economy marketplace Upwork ($NASDAQ:UPWK). As we reported a month ago, Upwork seemingly purged nearly 2-million accounts from its network as it looked to transform the gig marketplace into one with higher-paying jobs for fewer people.

But since then, the marketplace has recovered.

On April 13, the number of jobs on Upwork hit a low of 77,500. Since then, however, roughly 10,000 new gigs have been added, bringing the new total of available jobs on Upwork to 87,400.

Just before that, in early May, the number of user accounts at Upwork began to grow as well. On March 31, the site reported 643,000 user accounts, or workers. As of this week, that number has swelled to 938,000. That’s still a far cry from the 2.6 million workers the site reported in February, but it appears that things are up again at Upwork.

To be clear, not just anyone can sign up for Upwork. The company asks that new accounts create a profile and that within 24 hours they’ll either be accepted or not. It appears, then, that the company began approving profile requests in early March in earnest.

The type of gig work available on Upwork remains biased toward skilled workers in software development, design, and writing, with “Web Mobile Software Development” showing the most gigs at 271,000 as of this week.

The change is a positive sign for those looking to make some extra money during uncertain times, especially after we found that Upwork had been plagued by too little work for too many people.

This recent surge also comes as the company has made some goodwill efforts that include its Work Together Talent Grants Program, which gives $25,000 grants to freelancers who can “help develop and accelerate projects whose mission is tied directly to mitigating COVID-19’s devastating impact on individuals, communities, and economies.” 

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online – jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings – and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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Gig economy saves Australia’s jobs market, but at what cost?

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Don’t be surprised if employers use the recession to employ more casuals and outsource more work.

(Image: Adobe)

There were three messages in the confusing jobs data for August that emerged yesterday from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The headline number was dramatically better than any economist, or even the Reserve Bank or Treasury, had predicted.

The first is, despite the claims from the media and the Morrison government that the Andrews government’s lockdown was some profound act of economic vandalism, Victoria’s jobless rate only moved up to 7.1% from 6.8%, with 42,000 jobs lost in that state last month. Hours fell by 4.8% in Victoria, compared with a 1.8% rise across the rest of Australia.

Now there may well be another big fall in Victoria in the September data as the numbers catch up. There will be a clue in the ABS’s next payroll jobs and wages data next week.



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Collaboration in the Gig Economy keynote

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September 17, 2020

Engagement managers already have a much more complex choice than in the past. It’s not just whether to hire a traditional employee to get a job done — the procurement supply chain is much larger. Today’s choices include using a staffing agency temp, engaging an independent contractor, calling in an SOW consultant or turning to an online work platform. And technology continues to bring changes — with Covid-19 speeding up the evolution.

“I would argue that times of crisis and times of change, like we are in today, will help propel the next stage of digital transformation,” SIA President Barry Asin said in a keynote address today kicking off the Collaboration in the Gig Economy virtual conference.

Asin cited technological change wrought by the last recession: In 2007, only 24% of large companies had a VMS in place; by 2010, the percentage had grown to 64%.

Fast forward to today, there was $1 billion in venture capital funding focused on the HR tech space in the second quarter alone.

Large companies that use staffing are turning to tech more and more. SIA data found 43% of large staffing buyers foresee an increase in usage of online staffing/talent pool in the next 10 years. Evolving concepts such as direct sourcing are already used by 30% of buyers, and 49% plan to put a direct-sourcing program in place within the next two years; much of it fueled by new tech offerings.

“I think that what we’re seeing — particularly for the traditional service providers in the talent supply chain — is a real digital transformation, and the current crisis is accelerating that digital transformation,” Asin said. “And it’s accelerating it for all the players involved at the different points of that supply chain.”

Already, 54 million Americans did gig work in 2019, approximately 34% of the workforce, according to SIA data. That amounts to $1.3 trillion in spend with the largest share going to independent contractors. SIA defines the gig economy as including all types of contingent work, encompassing

  • staffing agency temporary workers
  • SOW consultants
  • directly hired temporaries
  • online platform workers
  • independent contractors

The Collaboration in the Gig Economy Conference brings together all parts of the ecosystem to talk the latest trends and advances. Attendees include enterprise buyers, staffing suppliers, VMS/MSP companies, human cloud/on demand platforms and technology solutions providers.

“There is a wave and a transformational change that we are seeing in society,” Asin said. “Many of you are on the leading edge of that change.”

The virtual event continues through tomorrow.

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Australia – Victorian government launches consultation for feedback on its gig economy report

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17 September 2020

The Victorian government inviting Victorians to make submissions about all or some of the recommendations into its report on the gig economy.

The Victorian Government first commissioned its ‘Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce’ in September 2018 in response to concerns about the wages and conditions of workers in the on-demand or ‘gig economy’.

The Inquiry, which was chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James, completed its investigations and submitted a report to Government. The report was published in July 2020.

The two-year investigation found that online platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo in Victoria have deliberately framed their arrangements with workers to avoid regulation while other businesses carry the cost of complying with workplace laws.

While some appreciated the flexibility on-demand work provides, James found the uncertain status of workers, who are not classified as employees and therefore do not qualify for workplace entitlements, protections and obligations, was at the heart of the system’s failures of workers.

The report made 20 recommendations for both the federal and state governments aimed at improving protections for on-demand workers.

The Victorian government stated on its site that all submissions will be treated in confidence to allow people to ‘frankly share their views’. The Victorian Government added that it will consider all feedback received before responding to the Inquiry’s Report.

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