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Trust: The Currency of the Gig Economy
Empire Startups contributor Craig J. Lewis dives into how individuals are valuing flexibility over stability.
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The gig economy. You’re part of it, whether you know it or not. As a consumer, and even as a FinTech professional – you engage with it. Often on the daily.
Now, you might dismiss it as just the Ubers or DoorDashes of the world. Well, here’s what I see from my years of experience in payroll software and as a Founder and CEO of a gig payments platform: 1.57 billion gig workers globally.
You won’t see much of this reported in labor statistics, or in payroll numbers – the data is notoriously hard to get at. But it’s there. This vast “shadow labor force”, a significant chunk hailing from developing nations, reinforces the belief that the gig economy possesses the power to democratize employment and opportunities on a global scale.
An Era “Shift”
It’s time to pay attention to the true nature of The Future of Work – of which the gig economy is an accelerant. Payments, banking, insurance, RegTech, cybersecurity, WealthTech, blockchain, and cryptocurrency – you are all likely bumping up against this more and more.
Here’s why: As a society we are undergoing an intense transition in labor behaviors. From what I call the “Employer Era” to the “Independent Era”. This marks a shift from traditional, structured employment relationships to a more flexible, self-driven work construct.
Take the U.S. alone, where there’s an estimated 73.3 million freelancers in 2023, and 76.4 million expected in 2024. This represents around 43% of the total labor force – a jump of close to 70% from just a couple years ago.
In the Employer Era, individuals often worked long-term for single companies, with set roles and clear hierarchies. The Independent Era, maximizing participation by low barriers to entry via the gig economy, emphasizes autonomy. Individuals are taking charge of their careers, often juggling multiple roles or projects, and valuing flexibility over stability.
This evolution reflects changing global dynamics, technological advancements, and a renewed emphasis on work-life balance and skill over tenure and qualifications.
But even so, there is a still a major blindspot to highlight in all of this:Trust.
Trust in the Gig Economy
It's the cornerstone that upholds every structure in our world, and when it comes to the gig economy and future of work, it's the currency that holds even more weight than the dollar or euro.
Think about it for a second. In the Employer Era, trust was built over years, through interviews, face-to-face meetings, and references. Trust was, in many ways, a byproduct of proximity and time.
Fast forward to today's Independent Era. You're potentially hiring a graphic designer from Brazil, a software developer from India, and a customer support agent from Canada—all in a single day. There's no luxury of time, no in-person meetings, and often, no shared cultural nuances. Yet, there's an expectation of quality, reliability and safety. So how do you ensure trust? Through robust platforms, transparent reviews, seamless payments, and yes, innovative FinTech solutions.
From my vantage point at Gig Wage, I've noticed that trust is essentially twofold. First, it's the trust between the worker and the platform. The worker needs to know they will get paid fairly and on time. Then, it's the trust between the consumer or hiring company and the worker. They need assurance that the person is who they claim to be and the job will be completed efficiently and up to standards.
And this is where FinTech's brilliance shines. With immediate payments, transparent transaction histories, secure data management, and advanced AI-driven verification processes, FinTech is revolutionizing trust in the gig economy. It's ensuring that even in a world where interactions are fleeting, trust remains steadfast.
Moreover, trust isn't static. As the gig economy continues to evolve, the way we perceive and establish trust also undergoes transformation. The next wave might be driven by blockchain, ensuring transparent work histories and immutable reputations, or AI-driven trust scores that take into account a freelancer's entire digital footprint.
So, if you're in FinTech, or even merely observing from the sidelines, remember this: As we transition more into the Independent Era, trust will be the game-changer. And the way we handle, nurture, and innovate around trust will dictate the success of this monumental shift in the Future of Work.
Stay vigilant, stay innovative, and always keep trust at the forefront. Because in this brave new world, trust isn't just an asset; it's the very foundation.
Ad Astra ✨
Craig J. Lewis, Founder & CEO of Gig Wage, Empire Startups Contributor
Empire Startups Contributors are a community of experts providing unique perspectives and insights on the latest in FinTech. Our model is is merit-based and does not offer monetary compensation.
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