For the past two and a half years I’ve been thinking about the following question: What helps young people graduating from postsecondary institutions best transition to the world of work? That question has been at the heart of the digital offerings I’ve created, the writing I’ve done and the programs and workshops I’ve designed. And as part of that work, I’ve read a lot, and spoken to hundreds of students and many faculty members to witness and support their experiences, their pain points and their questions. In addition to hearing those stories however, over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the larger systems that influence our experiences of work. In August 2018, I went to Kingston Ontario to attend the Queens International Social Policy Institute titled “The Future of Work: Where do we go from here?” Going to Kingston was an opportunity to deepen my knowledge about emerging trends in the world of work and to meet academics, government officials and policy analysts from around the country and internationally working in this space. It was an incredible experience, and you can learn more about the panelists and their sessions here.
And so a few months ago when I came across Sarah Kessler’s 2018 book “Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work” in a Johannesburg bookstore, I was intrigued. Written over six years, the book follows debates about the changing world of work and demonstrates that not only is the world of work becoming much more precarious but depending on who you are, this precarity can manifest as highly desirable flexibility or deeply troubling instability that erodes real wages and worker benefits. Using stories to guide her narrative along, in Part 1 and 2, Kessler describes how the age of the job as we know it is ending, and notes that the gig economy is appealing because modern workplaces increasingly demand more from workers and are built on the structure of single breadwinner families even though, more often than not, that structure does not resemble what families look like today. Given the pressure of 9-5 (and beyond) work, the gig economy has felt like a key to more flexible work that can help families and individuals where both partners are working to structure their work in more life-suitable ways, and a way to create work opportunities for those who cannot find traditional work: