The Nowsta Blog

Management tips and labor market insights to help you run your business

The Future of the Gig Economy: 5 Jobs that Could Be Next

By Henry Updegrave on October 15, 2018

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen more and more people participate in the gig economy, taking non-permanent, freelance jobs often facilitated over the internet. While it’s hard to pin down exact numbers, a review of several existing studies conducted by Nation1099 suggests that 11% of the U.S. workforce counts freelance jobs as their primary source of income, while an additional 25-39% have freelanced in the last year for supplementary income. Research from McKinsey suggests that many more workers want to join them and experience the independence that comes from being one’s own boss.

But when most people think of the gig economy, they think of apps like Uber, AirBnb, or TaskRabbit. Nearly all of the jobs available on these apps are one-off, transactional deals conducted between individuals. The work isn’t consistent or high-paying enough to replace a full-time job, which is why companies like Uber say more than half of its drivers work 15 or fewer hours per week.

In order to build a gig economy that works for all who want to participate, we need new platforms that enable businesses -- not just individuals -- to hire staff instantly, on demand. Yes, existing platforms like UpWork allow businesses to hire freelancers, but most of those jobs are reserved for highly-specialized white collar workers completing one-off projects. The next step is to create a new labor marketplace that enables businesses to hire for more roles and lays the foundation for relationship building and repeat hiring -- something between the Uber model and traditional part-time employment. This new labor platform would align with the trends we’re already seeing. U.S. employers are hiring more and more workers on an on-call, contractor, or contingent basis. Not to mention, part-time workers already hold a high percentage of roles for the most ubiquitous occupations.

The question then becomes, which jobs will be first? Which roles best lend themselves to outsourcing in the next phase of the gig economy? We predict that it will have to be jobs with many openings and a big pool of potential workers, in order to make the marketplace as liquid as possible. But these will also need to be jobs that don’t require highly-specialized skills or familiarity with a specific workplace’s unique processes. Below are five occupations that fit the bill.

1. Retail sales

Job titles: Cashiers and retail sales workers

Estimated number of positions (Bureau of Labor Statistics): 8.4 million

Why it makes sense:

Retail work is one of the nation’s biggest sources of employment. With millions of potential employers and workers, there’s immediate potential for a massive, liquid labor marketplace. Retail sales skills are easily transferable between workplaces, so one can imagine workers taking shifts at different stores without much difficulty. Not to mention, many retail positions don’t require previous experience, so a functioning online marketplace could be a frictionless entry point for new workers who may not otherwise apply.

In many ways, retail jobs already resemble other gig economy jobs. Lots of these positions are part time or seasonal, so staffing managers already have to juggle scheduling and payment for big rosters of employees on an as needed basis. A reliable hiring platform would streamline those processes.

2. Food services

Job titles: Cooks, servers, food preparation workers, and others. See more here.

Estimated number of positions (BLS): 5.1 million

Why it makes sense:

Like retail, food service is a huge employment segment in which job skills translate to different workplaces and newcomers are often welcome. And, as Americans continue to eat out more, it also looks to be one of the highest-growth job categories, with nearly 580,000 new jobs expected by 2026.

Restaurants also face huge turnover problems. A real time job marketplace would help mitigate the issue, as managers could easily find new employees to replace departing ones -- even on short notice.

3. Janitorial services

Job titles: Janitors and building cleaners

Estimated number of positions (BLS): 2.4 million

Why it makes sense:

Janitorial work is another huge employment category with high expected growth. It’s also one of many non-core functions for which companies increasingly rely on staffing agencies. Those agencies need to coordinate workers’ schedules with the ever-changing needs of many clients -- gig platforms aiming to serve them could alleviate that complexity with strong workforce management components like scheduling and labor forecasting.

While janitorial work has a low overall barriers to entry for new workers, some employers will likely want to hire people with previous experience. Janitors often need to use specialized equipment like floor buffers and wet-and-dry vacuums, and new hires usually receive on-the-job training from more experienced workers. Companies without a veteran on staff would likely want someone they can verify has all the skills.

That last point illustrates the importance of a built-in trust system for the platforms that will fuel this next stage of the gig economy. Just as Uber riders rate their drivers, these platforms will need a system for employers to rate worker performance and confirm they have the necessary skills for each job.

4. Construction

Job titles: Construction laborers and helpers

Estimated number of positions (BLS): 1.4 million

Why it makes sense:

Similar to retail and janitorial work, construction workers are often hired on a project-based or contingent basis. That adds a layer of complexity for managers that a real time hiring marketplace can help solve. The need for verifiable expertise is even more important here than in janitorial work, as construction workers are often operating heavy duty machinery. Again, the labor marketplaces that move the gig economy forward will need built-in rating and skill verification systems -- in the case of construction, it’s a matter of safety.

5. Home healthcare

Job titles: Home health aides and personal care aides  

Estimated number of positions (BLS): 3.0 million

Why it makes sense:

Many don’t realize it, but home healthcare is one of the country’s biggest employment areas. Not only that, but we’ll soon be needing more home health aides than ever due to our aging population. Labor platforms can help employers hire the aides they need in a tight labor market while ensuring they’re getting people with the necessary training and qualifications.

Entering phase two of the gig economy

There are many more jobs that can and will become part of the gig economy in the coming years, but we need a new on demand labor marketplace to make it happen. That marketplace needs to meet a few key criteria, such as large scale, real time updating of job availability and worker qualification signalling. It won’t be easy to build, but the demand is there. Businesses are looking for more efficient ways to find and manage on demand labor, while more workers than ever want to ditch the traditional 9 to 5. Now, we need to make the connections between the two parties seamless and efficient.

Henry heads up marketing at Nowsta: the easiest way to schedule, manage, and pay hourly staff.

Helping you become a better manager.