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How Safe Is The Gig Economy From Automation?

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Over the past few years, automation has proven highly beneficial across different industries. From lowered business operating costs to reducing production time, enhancing productivity, and improving overall product/service quality, the list of benefits that companies get from automation is literally endless. It is undoubtedly among the best innovations of the 21st century!  

Of course, there are many different kinds of automation, from fixed to programmable and flexible automation. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are taking up pace pretty fast, and the freelancing economy can’t help but wonder what the future holds. But how safe exactly is the gig economy from automation?

The Gig Economy 

The gig economy is often touted as the big alternative to traditional work. It encourages freelancing among young workers as well as people with little preference for full-time jobs. As we speak, automation has already posed a huge threat to the working economy, allowing many companies to spend less on their labor costs without affecting productivity and ROI.

Nonetheless, freelancers have questions lingering in their minds. Are they safer from automation technology either? Is it the truck drivers who should be afraid of autonomous vehicles? Or perhaps freelance accounting specialists should be more afraid of payroll automation? Let’s take a brief look at some of the most likely fields to be affected by automation, and what the odds are.

1) Copywriting

Copywriters are researchers and writers capable of creating great promotional and marketing texts in the best language an audience can understand. In most cases, copywriters use already-existing text, facts, and materials while doing so. With the arrival of AI-assisted writing, freelance copywriters have a reason to start thinking ahead and working smarter.

However, our consumption of written information will not end anytime soon. According to Medium.com’s Michael Metcalf’s 2019 article, that technology will augment copywriting rather than replace it. With the numerous variables in place, we can say that gig economy freelancers are moderately safe over the coming years. Only time will tell.

2) Graphic Design 

Professionals in the graphic design world have also been threatened by AI and other automation technologies, especially freelancers. From Adobe to Autodesk, site builders like Squarespace, and even streaming service providers like Netflix, many companies have employed artificial intelligence in bettering their design processes.

With AI tools like Artflow.ai; images, animations, and expressions that were previously impossible to create could be done in a flash soon. But that shouldn’t spell doom to graphic designers in the gig economy world according to Iowa State University’s Economics Department. As long as you are creative and embrace tech improvement,

3) Accounting /Tax preparation

With software programs like Pastel, Sage, and QuickBooks having been around for quite some time, automation is nothing new in the world of accounting and tax preparation. As an independent contractor, all you need is a reliable online paystub maker to ease your worries when it comes to salary payment. They help make accounting and tax preparation tasks a breeze even to freelancers and self-employed individuals. Apart from having proof of income, you can also keep better track of taxes, deductions, and all wage information.  

4) Paralegal Research

Paralegal work is also increasingly receiving an impact from automation technology. Alongside AI, automation has made it possible for paralegals to have more free time as it helps reduce routine manual tasks and streamline workflows. Nonetheless, these technologies are yet to find a solution for paralegal research aspects like interviews where emotional intelligence is necessary. If you work as a freelance paralegal researcher, embracing automation can be a wise move to improve your job security.

In conclusion, automation and AI will give workers and prospects in most if not all industries a run for their money. Whether or not the gig economy is safe from automated technology will depend on various factors. For instance, it depends on your skills, where you work, the types of clients you deal with, and the relationships you build. With so many automation software and technology tools out there, choosing the ideal ones to use can give you a huge boost.

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Farrukh Dhondy | Brexit’s effects hit UK harder: ‘Gig’ workers bear the brunt

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The ships’ departure will lead to the imports not reaching industries and consumer goods not reaching the shelves of retailers

“Women in clinging brown dresses

Remind me of baked potatoes–

But seeing their alluring tresses

I realise the simile transgresses

The limits of woke

– So, I’m sorry I spoke

These comparisons must go on tip toes.”


From The Ladder of Love by Bachchoo

Sixty ships were turned away from Britain’s shores last week. No, gentle reader, this wasn’t Francis Drake repelling the Spanish Armada — it was a lack of space in container ports. Britain has suffered an acute shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers to carry into the nation’s interior the containers that the cargo ships unload at the ports. The glut of containers meant that the ships had to hang about for days or turn away from the ports.

 

Their departure will lead to the imports not reaching industries and consumer goods not reaching the shelves of retailers.

The government, enthusiastic advocates of Brexit, will undoubtedly claim that this is a triumph for their policy. The shortages, Prime Minister BoJo has already proclaimed, will force industry and haulage companies to pay higher wages which will then turn the UK into a contemporary superpower.

Hot air! The Tories who at their recent party conference applauded BoJo’s contention must have clapped him with crossed fingers of one hand behind their backs.

This talk of the so-called “levelling up” — forcing businesses to pay much higher wages to fill the vacancies that Brexit has caused by forcing the exodus of European workers from these shores, is wishful thinking or even a case of whistling in the dark as the lights go out.

 

The shortage of drivers in the HGV sector is not the only one. The hospitality industry, the National Health Service, care homes for the elderly and now, ludicrously, abattoirs which decapitate pigs and deliver pork, ham and bacon to the nation, are all in crisis. The last one has been national news in the UK with footage on TV of thousands of pigs who will have to be “disposed of” because of the lack of trained butchers.

There is in the country a real problem of low wages and exploitation of workers. One example recently attracting the limelight is that of the couriers who deliver ready meals from restaurants and takeaway joints to homes and offices. There are several firms offering this delivery service, the two most prominent are Deliveroo and Just Eat.

 

This latter company sends its drivers on two wheels, motorised or pedalled, and keeps them on self-employed contracts. This means they get paid by the hour and don’t have the benefits of controlled hours, holiday pay, etc, that have been passed into British law through the demands and agitation of working-class institutions. These “gig” economy workers have not had their rights protected by the government that boasts about its plans to level up.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of very many retail stores, the population has turned to home deliveries. Shopping lists go out by email and the goods are delivered to one’s doorstep. I am aware that in most, perhaps all cities in India, one can order a meal, a drink or groceries by phone or through online platforms. I suppose the delivery service extends to Amazon delivering purchases ordered by email and am sure that India’s supermarkets and even small stores accept delivery orders.

 

Undoubtedly the coronavirus years have exacerbated the demand and supply and now we must wonder if the populations of the world will ever go completely back to shopping in shops. Jeff Bezos triumphs.

In my long-gone childhood, gentle reader, there was no Jeff Bezos and no gig economy because there were no computers. Yes, there were house phones, but one couldn’t order groceries or anything else on them. if one wanted a bottle of lemonade, one walked down to the corner Irani café in Pune and ordered it at the counter, from behind which the proprietor would shout loudly to the kitchen-hatch “lemon batli parcel!” It didn’t strike me then that all three words were English or at least derived from English.

 

Today the Brits still say “takeaway” for food to eat outside the place that is selling it. The Americans say “to go”. The Brits emphasise the customer’s role in taking the food away. The Americans pretend the food is active in its departure. Ho hum.

And yet in those childhood days there was a sort of gig economy, in that street salespeople fetched milk, eggs, bread, sweetcorn and a lot else to your doorstep, shouting the names of their wares in the street. I recall a fellow at Byculla in Mumbai shouting what was and remains a slogan of mystery as he walked through the alleys where my grandfather had the family building called — you guessed it — Dhondy Terrace.

 

He would shout, in a musical hum “Jamset, Jamset, Jamset, Jamset, chum chari yumpum Jamset!” I never found out what he was selling.

And then there was the stove repair man who would carry his tools in a bag on his back and shout “Primus na choola repairing, feturyun na choola repairing!” He got the Primus name right, but “feturyun” was his version for a cast-iron cooking stove with a wick dipped in a bottom tank of kerosene which the British manufacturer called “Criterion”.

Nevertheless, the users of the contraption understood what he meant and many a stove was repaired on a Pune doorstep.

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Down with the boss, up with the gig worker – The News Herald

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Napoleon didn’t deride the English as “a nation of shopkeepers,” although that phrase is commonly attributed to him. In fact, it was Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, a French revolutionary who used it when attacking the achievements of British Prime Minister William Pitt, the Younger.

I think Napoleon was too smart not to have realized that a nation of shopkeepers is a strong nation, and that if the English of the time were indeed a nation of shopkeepers, they would constitute a more formidable enemy.

A nation of shopkeepers, to my mind, is an ideal: self-motivated people who know the value of work, money, and enterprise; and who are almost by definition individualists. So, I regret the constant threats to small business coming from chains, economies of scale, high rents, and some social stigma.

But mostly I regret that in our education system, self-employment isn’t celebrated and venerated as being equivalent to work at larger enterprises.

We define too many by where they work, not by what they do.

I have always believed that one should aspire to work for oneself, to eschew the temptations of the big, enveloping corporation and to strike out with whatever skills one has to test them in the market and to have the customer, not the boss, tell you what to do.

Our education system produces people tailored to be employed, not self-employed.

But things are changing. The gig economy was well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now it is roaring. Many employees found that the servitude of conventional employment wasn’t for them.

The gig world differs from the small business world that I have described in that it is small business refined to its absolute core: a one-person business, true self-employment.

There are many advantages in self-employment for society and for the larger business world. Hiring a self-employed contractor is easier for a company, not having to create a staff position and pay all the costs that go with it. Laying off a contractor isn’t as traumatic. The worker is more respected, and is asked to do things not commanded. The system gains efficiency.

But if employers come to see the gig economy as just cheap, dispensable labor, then the gig economy has failed.

The gig worker shouldn’t expect security but should be treated in a business-to-business environment. He or she needs to know how to drive a bargain and to have the moral courage to ask for a contract that is fair and recognizes the value that is intrinsic in the gig relationship.

I am a fan of Lyft and Uber. They offer self-employment to anyone with a driver’s license and a car — and the companies will even get you into a car. But the bargain is one-sided. The driver has the freedom to work what hours he or she chooses but not to negotiate the terms of their engagement. That is decided by a computer in San Francisco.

This gig worker can’t hope to hire other drivers and start a small business: It doesn’t pass the gig contract concept. I have talked to many ride-share drivers. They revel in the freedom, but not the income.

Gig workers can be, well, anything from a plumber to a computer programmer, from a dog walker to an actuary.

But for the free new world of gig working to become part of our business fabric, the social structure needs to be adjusted by the government to allow for the gig worker to enroll in Social Security and to charge expenses against taxes as would an incorporated business. Jane Doe, who makes a living designing websites, needs to know that she is a business, not just freelancing between jobs.

A friend who has been self-employed for many years told me recently that he was being considered for a big staff job. I told him to be mindful that he will be trading away some dignity and a lot of freedom. It is hard to get into a harness when you have been running free.

I hope we get many more workers running free. Napoleon would have understood.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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Workers are taking on gig giants, one tweet at a time

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For Poonam, Dussehra usually marks the start of a busy festive season giving beauticians like her no time to breathe between house calls, with several gold facials and chocolate waxes squeezed in. But this year, Poonam, along with several other Urban Company (UC) employees, logged out of the app and refused to work till their demands for lower commissions and better working conditions were met. Post-pandemic, Poonam’s monthly earnings had been slashed by half from an average Rs 60,000 a month in 2019 and she was desperate. “One woman was under so much pressure that she was near suicide,” she confides.
On October 8, workers sat on a dharna outside the UC Gurgaon office. Their voices would have probably been ignored but for some behind-the-scenes techies at the All India Gig Workers Union (AIGWU) who helped draft their charter of demands while Twitter accounts like @DeliveryBhoy, @ZomatoPartners, @aigwu_union and @SwiggyDEHyd amplified their protest.
On October 14, UC announced a slew of changes such as cutting commission, unblocking IDs of striking workers and starting a helpline. A UC statement said, “The urgency with which we are moving is because it is the right thing to do and not under business pressure.” This has been a rare victory not just for the 3,500 UC workers in Delhi-NCR but for gig workers across the country. While the gig economy has transformed the world of work, the precarious nature of employment has left many insecure and unprotected. Now, they’re slowly realising that combining forces and using social media can make their voice heard more effectively.
Food delivery workers were the first to take to Twitter, launching more than a dozen handles, three run by registered unions, to aggregate and amplify cases of discrimination (not being allowed to use building lifts or restrooms at restaurants while waiting to pick up orders), and working conditions — be it blocked IDs of riders, lack of responsiveness from the company on accident cases or heavy workloads. Ahmed Mohiuddin, a Zomato delivery agent, started the Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union Twitter handle @TGWPU in August this year. “I barely save Rs 10,000-12,000 a month after fuel costs, maintenance and other expenses despite working over 10 hours a day,” says the 20-year-old who supports his family and pays his college fees with his meagre earnings. Twitter, he says, has encouraged other agents to speak up as well. “Other delivery agents and friends ask me to post on their behalf because the company blocks IDs if it finds out who has posted them,” he adds.
TGWPU founder and national general secretary of the Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT) Shaik Salauddin, who drives a cab himself, says that though it has been a hard task to bring workers together, their social media strategy seems to be paying off. “Earlier, if there was a local-level protest the company would block IDs and just use new agents. Now we use social media to name and shame them.”
In India, the gig economy workforce is estimated at around 8 million people but has the potential to provide work to as many as 90 million people in the next decade, according to a recent Boston Consulting Group report. While this is promising, gig work is far less so. Last year there were a series of protests by Swiggy workers in Chennai, Hyderabad and Noida, protesting against pay cuts and removal of monthly incentives during the pandemic, while ride-hailing giants Ola and Uber also faced protests over the 20% commission charged despite a steep drop in business.
These strikes were spontaneous but ineffective, says Girish (name changed), coordinator for the AIGWU. Girish, a Delhi-based techie, is part of the All India IT and ITeS Employees’ Union and one of the volunteers raising awareness among gig workers, creating structures of leadership and providing support with social media. “We have been helping workers from various platforms connect by holding monthly meetings and strategising with them so they are able to fight for their rights,” he says.
In 2019, a collective of about 40 people including academicians, NGOs, lawyers came under the aegis of the Working People’s Charter to bring workers under a cohesive leadership of IFAT. With the pandemic further impacting income of gig workers, IFAT now has 35,000 members and growing.
Rahul Sapkal, professor at IIT-Bombay and IFAT co-founder, says, “Gig workers are not even recognised as workers under Indian law. We have adopted a multi-pronged strategy — advocacy, studies to capture the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods and approaching the courts — to build pressure on the government and the companies.” In September, IFAT filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking social security benefits from platform companies including Uber, Ola, Zomato and Swiggy — the first such lawsuit in the country.
Kaveri Medappa, a doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex who has studied the living and working conditions of delivery workers in Bengaluru, said that it was unfortunate that Twitter had become a platform for negotiation. “Social media has proved to be the Achilles heel for delivery and ride-sharing companies. Workers have been able to use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share how work happens, how minutely their lives are controlled and how they are punished,” she says.
A Zomato spokesperson dismissed these allegations as biased misunderstandings. “If these allegations were even remotely true, our business would not sustain. Why? Because…unhappy delivery partners would lead to unhappy customers, which would be terrible for our business. It’s in our interest to ensure they are cared for and that the platform works for them.” The company also said that they had a team of over 1,200 people to address 25,000 support requests and most were solved within 24 hours. Ola did not respond and Swiggy refused to comment on the social media criticism.
Medappa feels the government should be doing more for labour rights. Parliament passed the Code on Social Security in 2020, bringing 250 million unorganised workers within the social security net and providing benefits like old-age pensions, health insurance and disability aids. But the code is yet to be implemented. She cites progressive legislation in UK, and China where workers’ rights have been protected by laws. “Despite threats of retreat of capital, we must continue to push back to be heard,” she says.



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