Episode #9 -Has the Gig Economy Already Affected Insights Professionals?
In this episode of the MRX Lab podcast from FlexMR, we explore the gig economy and ask whether it’s having an impact on the market research industry. We look at the societal changes taking place, shifting consumer attitudes, the effect on insights professionals and deep dive into conflicts with the practice of research sampling.
But, perhaps the first question we turn our attention to is; what exactly defines the gig economy? There’s a few different approaches we can take to pinpoint an exact definition – but most agree that the gig economy is some form of market system that relies on an independent workforce and short-term or casual commitments.
Typically, this form of market encourages more than just freelancing. Individuals are encouraged to find multiple types of ‘gig’ work and not be beholden to any single specialism. In fact, many primary examples of gig work could be viewed as deliberately low skilled.
There’s vigorous debate in many countries about whether this form of self-employment is a positive or negative. While some content that in an economic downturn, the gig economy provides an accessible form of income; others argue that that gig-economy work could be completed by contracted employees and its very existence encourages firms to act as bad social actors. But that’s not the debate we focus on.
Instead, we examine whether – with 5 million UK workers and 55 million of the United States workforce – the gig economy has had an impact on the market research industry. The first point to make is that employment in the sector has been relatively insulated from the impact on the workforce. Gig economy work favours simple tasks; grocery delivery, ridesharing, rental, tutoring, pet sitting etc. That’s not to say there isn’t a healthy freelance community within the insights industry – but it has been relatively unaffected by wider changes in the economy.
However, there is more evidence that the surge in casual work has instead impacted the way in which insights professionals work. What I mean by that is that with gig economy work accounting for a reported third of all US workers – the way in which we ask questions, understand financial situations and get to grips with consumer identities must evolve too.