The explosive global growth of online ride-hailing platforms raised concern (and, in some quarters, optimism) that similar growth in other platforms could rapidly disrupt traditional labor arrangements on a large scale in advanced economies. But the evidence to date suggests no significant changes in the overall importance of “gig” work in the US labor market nor a significant decline in the importance of traditional employment relationships. Online platforms may play a growing role (relative to traditional “brick-and-mortar” intermediaries) in connecting gig workers to their customers, but that alone does not guarantee a large increase in the importance of gig work. Branstetter reviews this evidence, noting the gaps in labor market data series that make the measurement of this phenomenon so difficult. Even if traditional employment relationships are not likely to decline significantly in the near future, the rise of online gig work nevertheless highlights longstanding inadequacies of labor market regulations, which recognize employees and truly independent contractors but struggle with the intermediate kinds of worker-firm relationships the online platforms enable. Branstetter summarizes proposals for regulating gig economy work and the lessons policymakers in South Korea and other economies can learn from the literature he reviews in this Policy Brief.
The data underlying this analysis can be downloaded here [zip].