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Gig Economy Statistics

The Future of Employment – 30 Telling Gig Economy Statistics

by Milja Milenkovic

You only need to take one look at the latest gig economy statistics to see that the times are not only a-changing; they’ve already changed. Gone are the days of working from nine to five in a cradle-to-grave job. Nowadays, it’s becoming more and more common to piece together an income from several different sources and work when you want, not when your boss tells you to.

The proliferation of freelancing and gig work – especially through major gig economy employers such as Uber, Lyft, Turo or Fiverr – shows this. We’re witnessing a massive shift from traditional work and full-time employment to freelancing, working part-time, and independent contracting. This is often referred to as the gig economy.

So, how can we define the gig economy? Broadly speaking, the gig economy is a free-market system in which companies look to work with independent contractors or freelancers as opposed to hiring full-time workers. The ‘gig’ part of the name refers to the dominant model of work in this economy, where workers are employed and paid per job or project.

In this economy, workers have temporary or part-time positions, allowing them to frequently change employers or work for several different businesses at the same time. The rise of this economy is closely connected to advances in technology and the trend of working remotely as so-called digital nomads. This provides even more flexibility for both freelancers and clients.

We’ve compiled some interesting statistics about the gig economy to paint a better picture of what work looks like in 2019.

Gig Economy statistics - Editor's Choice

  • About 36% of US workers are now involved in the gig economy.
  • US freelancers contributed $1.28 trillion to the American economy in 2018.
  • 90% of freelancers think the industry has an even brighter future ahead of it.
  • If the gig economy keeps growing at its current rate, more than 50% of the US workforce will participate in it by 2027.
  • In 2018, US independent workers spent a billion hours per week freelancing.
  • 42% of young people freelance.

The Size of the Gig Economy

1. About 36% of US workers are now involved in the gig economy.

(Gallup)

You’re probably asking yourself this: How big is the gig economy in the US? It’s hard to know for sure, especially when people do freelance work in addition to their main job. The variance in how we define gig work doesn’t help, either.

Statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor show there were 55 million US gig workers in 2017. The most recent and reliable data is from a Gallup poll on the gig economy presented in the company’s Gig Economy and Alternative Arrangements study. This study reveals that more than a third of all US workers – around 57 million people in total – are now employed as independent workers.

2. 40% of US-based workers generate a large part of their income via the gig economy.

(PYMNTS)

Data from the latest Gig Economy Index shows that around 40% of \US workers generate 40% of their income by working independently. This shows how much people depend on the gig economy financially, with a lot of people forced to do gig work in addition to their regular job to make ends meet. Many earn extra income by driving an Uber or working for one of the other top gig economy companies.

3. The yearly increase in the number of freelance workers keeps getting higher.

(Wonolo)

Wonolo report that the gig economy’s growth rate is speeding up by the year. The total number of freelancers in the US increased by 4.2% in 2017, compared to 1.3% in 2015.

4. In 2018, US independent workers spent a billion hours per week freelancing.

(Upwork)

According to a freelance industry report provided by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, freelancers spend a total of one billion hours per week freelancing. This is a huge jump from 72 million hours per week in 2015, a trend that is sure to continue as more and more people get into the gig economy.

5. The gig economy is expanding three times faster than the US workforce as a whole.

(Forbes)

Upwork statistics show that the number of independent workforce is growing three times faster than the total US working population, which surely indicates a bright future for the gig economy.

6. US freelancers contributed $1.28 trillion to the American economy in 2018.

(MBO Partners)

The MBO State of Independence study points out that full-time independent workers in the US added $1.28 trillion to the economy last year. That’s nearly as much as the total GDP of Spain.

7. In 2013 alone, micro-businesses owned by freelancers generated $2.4 trillion.

(AEO)

Freelance workforce statistics published by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity demonstrate just how much freelancer-owned businesses contribute to the US economy. In 2013, micro-businesses owned by freelancers generated $2.4 trillion dollars, which made up 17% of the USA’s GDP at the time.

8. If the gig economy keeps growing at its current rate, more than 50% of the US workforce will participate in it by 2027.

(Wonolo)

According to gig economy facts provided by Wonolo, more than half of the country’s workforce will be doing some sort of freelance work eight years from now if current trends persist.

 

Job Security and Satisfaction in the Gig Economy

9. More than 50% of full-time independent workers feel more financially secure than those in traditional employment.

(MBO Partners)

Gig economy statistics from 2019 provided by MBO’s State of Independence report show that more than half of full-time independent workers feel more financially secure than they would in traditional jobs. Although financial security is one of the most important factors in decisions like these, job security and medical coverage can be a big concern for freelancers.

10. 51% of freelancers would not go back to traditional work for any amount of money.

(Upwork)

An Upwork study entitled “Freelancing in America” found that more than half of freelance workers would not go back to traditional employment, no matter how much money was on offer.

11. 26% of millennials think the gig economy offers more security than traditional work.

(T. Rowe Price Group)

T. Rowe Price Group’s survey results show that 26% of US millennials believe the freelancing jobs in the USA are more financially secure than regular full-time employment. This number is lower among members of Generation X (18%) and baby boomers (15%).

12. 84% of freelancers are living their preferred lifestyle compared to just 54% of those working in traditional jobs.

(Upwork)

It seems most workers now prioritize lifestyle over earnings. Striking the right balance appears to be much easier for freelancers than it is for those working full-time jobs.

13. 78% of gig workers say they’re happier than those working traditional jobs, while 68% say they’re healthier.

(McKinsey)

McKinsey gig economy research also clearly demonstrates that freelancers seem to be happier and feel healthier than their full-time counterparts. As far as income security and benefits go, freelancers are as happy as traditional workers are.

14. One in six traditional job workers would like to become an independent earner.

(McKinsey)

In its Independent Work study, Mckinsey found that one in six traditional job workers would like to switch to the independent workforce. Based on this data, we can expect that freelance work will continue to grow in popularity.

15. Those who work in the freelance economy by choice are the most satisfied group within the workforce.

(McKinsey)

McKinsey’s survey examined satisfaction levels among different workforce groups. The main parameters were whether they were traditional or independent workers and whether this was by choice or necessity. Of all demographics covered in this survey, independent workers who switched to the gig economy by choice were the most satisfied with their working arrangements.

16. 64% of independent workers intend to stay independent.

(Small Biz Labs)

Freelance statistics show that the majority of independent workers aim to stay independent. About 12% plan build a bigger business, while only 11% want to go back to traditional work.

17. 61% of independent workers freelance by choice.

(Upwork)

Upwork also reported that the number of gig economy workers who freelance by choice increases every year; in 2018, this figure comprised 61% of all US independent workers, compared to 53% in 2014. Younger people and those who freelance full-time lead the charge, as they make up the majority of freelancers.

18. The average freelance hourly rate ranges from $11 to $28 across the globe.

(Payoneer)

Payoneer’s 2018 Income Survey indicates that hourly rates for freelancers fall between $11 and $28 depending on the industry, with the average income for freelancers being $19. In all cases, this average is significantly higher than the national average in respondents’ home countries. These freelance rates go some way to explaining why people begin to freelance or switch completely to the gig economy.

19. 81% of full-time freelancers work as independents in order to be their own boss.

(Statista)

This Statista report identifies some of the main reasons for freelancing, including the ability to work remotely, schedule flexibility, extra money, and independence. But the most common answer among freelancers was that they wanted to be their own boss. This was the case for 81% of full-time freelancers who participate in the gig economy as well as 61% of those engaged in part-time freelancing work, stating this as the most popular reason for working independently.

The Gig Economy and Tech

20. More than 70% of freelancers find jobs through online markets and gig economy websites.

(Payoneer)

The internet has played a huge role in freelancing and the growth of the gig industry. Payoneer’s Freelance Income Report shows that more than 70% of all freelancers find projects through gig websites. Some of the biggest websites that provide gig work are Upwork – which has over 15 million users – as well as Fiverr and Toptal.

21. More than three in four freelancers say technology makes it easier to find work.

(Upwork)

Most freelancers believe that technology, mainly through gig economy platforms such as Upwork, makes finding work much easier.

22. 53% of young adults in the US use a smartphone to search for a job.

(Federal Reserve Bank St. Louis)

Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that people aged 18-29 are 53% more likely to use a smartphone to find a job. For US adults as a whole that figure is 28%.

23. 54% of freelancers use Facebook for self-promotion.

(Payoneer)

Drawing from Payoneer’s gig economy statistics we can see that more than half of freelancers in the US used Facebook to promote their work in 2018, an increase from 38% in 2015. It seems that not only do freelancers have to be their own bosses; they also have to be their own PR representatives.

Global Gig Economy Stats

24. 20-30% of the workforce in the US and EU-15 countries is involved in the gig economy.

(McKinsey)

That’s a total of 162 million working-age people across the US and the EU-15 countries engaged in some sort of non-traditional work.

25. The gig economy in the UK doubled in size between 2016 and 2019. It now comprises 4.7 million workers.

(The Guardian)

The UK seems to be following in the footsteps of the US in terms of gig economy growth. The UK’s freelancer economy has doubled in size in the past three years. Now, 4.7 million workers – or one in 10 working age adults – are engaged in the gig economy.

26. The number of freelancers has increased by 24% in the period from 2008 to 2015.

(IPSE)

The number of independent workers in the European Union rose by 24% between 2008 and 2015, jumping from 7.7 million to 9.6 million according to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed.

The Future of the Gig Economy

27. 90% of freelancers think the industry has an even brighter future ahead of it.

(Upwork)

According to Upwork’s comprehensive Freelancing in America survey, 90% of independent workers in the US believe the gig economy will only improve as time goes on.

28. 42% of young people freelance.

(Upwork)

Upwork’s research on gig economy trends shows that people aged 18-34 are the best-represented among freelancers, with 42% of them engaged in independent work.

29. Millenials will form 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

(Forbes)

Forbes reports that, by 2025, millennials will constitute most of the world’s workforce: 75% of it to be exact. When we consider that young people freelance more than any other generation, this suggests a positive future for the gig economy as a whole.

30. 80% of large US companies plan to switch to a flexible workforce.

(Intuit)

According to the Intuit 2020 report on the future of gig work, more than 80% of US-based large companies will greatly increase their use of non-traditional workers in the coming years.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How big is the US gig economy?

Bureau of Labor statistics on the gig economy show there were 55 million workers in this market in 2017. According to the latest and most reliable stats from 2018, there are now 57 million gig workers in the US economy, amounting to 36% of all US workers.

Why is the gig economy growing?

There are several reasons the gig economy continues to grow. On one hand, workers – especially younger ones – seem to prefer freelancing over full-time employment because of the flexibility and independence it provides. Non-traditional employment, especially through leading gig economy websites, allows them to choose where, when, and for whom they work. At the same time, companies can benefit from having a flexible workforce; they spend less money on training or recruitment, usually don’t pay for any medical coverage, and can more easily replace their workforce if needed.

Is the gig economy a good thing?

Workers, both young and old, seem to prefer the benefits of being independent. After all, those who work in the gig economy can determine their own working hours, choose which jobs to take, and decide which clients to work for. Companies, too, can enjoy the advantages of this agile labor market. Those that hire independent contractors can change their staff more easily and greatly reduce their recruitment and training costs.

Final Thoughts

Is freelancing on the rise? The stats say yes. There are more and more people doing gig work, both in the US and abroad. Companies are increasingly working with freelancers, the gig economy now contributes a significant amount to the US economy, and most freelancers seem happy with the state of the market. As our gig economy statistics indicate. if current trends continue, the freelance market will continue to expand rapidly. Soon, it could even overtake the traditional job economy.

Sources:

  1. (Gallup)
  2. (PYMNTS)
  3. (Wonolo)
  4. (Upwork)
  5. (Forbes)
  6. (MBO Partners)
  7. (AEO)
  8. (Wonolo)
  9. (MBO Partners)
  10. (Upwork)
  11. (T. Rowe Price Group)
  12. (Upwork)
  13. (McKinsey)
  14. (McKinsey)
  15. (McKinsey)
  16. (Smallbizlabs)
  17. (Upwork)
  18. (Payoneer)
  19. (Statista)
  20. (Payoneer)
  21. (Upwork)
  22. (Federal Reserve Bank St. Louis)
  23. (Payoneer)
  24. (McKinsey)
  25. (The Guardian)
  26. (Smallbiztrends)
  27. (Upwork)
  28. (Upwork)
  29. (Forbes)
  30. (Intuit)

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