gig economy
n. The economic sector consisting of freelancers who take on a series of small jobs, particularly when those jobs are contracted online using a website or app.
Does the gig economy exploit workers?

Uber and Lyft drivers, HomeJoy cleaners, TaskRabbit handypeople, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk odd-jobbers, and others who provide on-demand services through new online marketplaces work as independent contractors, without the protections afforded to employees. They lack benefits such as minimum wage, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, Social Security contributions and the right to collective bargaining.
—Carolyn Said, “Growing voices say gig workers need protections, benefits,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 17, 2015
Welcome to the so-called gig economy. Freelance writers are probably the most familiar type of independent workers, yet, whether driven by choice or market forces, more and more people in occupations as varied as academia, accounting, and acupuncture, are striking out on their own. It’s a constant hustle that can offer increased work-life flexibility but, as often, includes employers with take-it-or-leave-it attitudes and little income security. Is it really sustainable to have a wide swath of the modern American workforce making ends meet this way?
—Luke O'Neil, “Surviving the gig economy,” The Boston Globe, August 31, 2014
Once, union growth was in manufacturing, then in government, then nowhere. The so called “gig economy” may the next place where people band together to make sure that their needs are taken care of in a changing world
—Linda Nazareth, “‘Gig economy’ of self-employment can be good for economy,” The Globe and Mail, April 05, 2013
2009 (earliest)
To people I know in the bottom income brackets, living paycheck to paycheck, the Gig Economy has been old news for years. What’s new is the way it’s hit the demographic that used to assume that a college degree from an elite school was the passport to job security.
—Tina Brown, “The Gig Economy,” The Daily Beast, January 12, 2009
For some background on the word gig, see Of Gigs and Gags on the Word Spy blog.