The Gig Economy’s Impact on America’s Disparate Youth

Illustration by Drew Buchanan

Sofia Lyon
Staff Writer

As younger generations enter the workforce, the reality of an arising “gig” economy, a job market in which careers operate on an independent-contractor basis rather than as part of a larger company, grows more apparent. What with the advent of social media and artificial intelligence (A.I.), the job market continues to expand into unprecedented territory. 

This is part of a trend in which young people grow more disillusioned with the world they live in — continuing the tradition of disparate, disconnected, and distressed youth. 

The job market, with the increasing relevance of A.I. among other things, is rapidly changing. It is difficult for us to imagine what kinds of careers will exist in a decade from now. It is also rapidly evolving with the creation of industries, namely social media. 

Young people are able to create their own brands and businesses, often unintentionally, with major success — all without a college degree. This kind of lifestyle is becoming more and more attractive amongst young people.

On the other hand, with more young people electing to pursue higher education in general, traditional stable careers tend to be more competitive. Also, since so much labor and service-related work is now automated, humans are running out of jobs to do. 

As a result, white-collar positions which focus on creating said technology or doing jobs automation cannot supplement are more difficult to come by because the supply cannot match the demand. This seems to explain why so many young people are looking to make their own work, either via creating small businesses or looking to influence social media. 

Given this uncertainty, it’s no wonder why the younger generations are forced into a similarly uncertain fate; the quick progression of politics, technology, and culture has pushed us farther into a whirlwind of change, one we can scarcely keep up with. 

This move towards instability within civilization has occurred gradually, as each consecutive generation sought disruption and reform. Whether it be the move towards civil rights, freedom of identity, or a push away from capitalism, each generation of young people grows more restless within limitations and more eager to find ways to turn conventions on their heads. 

However, the byproduct of such ambition is often surprise upon reaching adulthood —surprise that one’s will is determined largely by untouchable variables of society at large. What follows this realization is a scramble to subscribe; to understand the status quo of our predecessors and adapt. But the aforementioned variables working beyond our control continue to change, irrespective of each new, young generation’s confusion.

The instability of future job markets is no surprise to our already evident disconnection and disillusionment. Finding a traditional, “secure,” career is no longer a guarantee for anyone — regardless of a college degree. Young generations are well aware of this, as many aspects of the world we expect to inherit are unstable.

The state of the physical planet, escalating political tensions, contention on issues of social justice, and economic growth or decline — the fate of the future already hangs precariously between prosperity and collapse. And we are already so spiritually removed from either of those outcomes, having resigned to the mere chaos of our current predicament. Why should our future economic interests be any different?