The Future of Employment - 30 Telling Gig Economy Statistics

The Future of Employment - 30 Telling Gig Economy Statistics
ByDamjan Jugovic Spajic
May 26,2021

The latest gig economy statistics tell us that times aren’t just changing - they’ve already changed. Gone are the days of working from nine to five in a cradle-to-grave job. Nowadays, it’s increasingly 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 gig economy statistics to paint a better picture of what work looks like nowadays.

Gig Economy Statistics - Editor's Choice

  • About 36% of US workers are part of the gig economy.
  • 12% of the US workforce started taking freelance jobs during the pandemic.
  • 10% of the US workforce was forced to pause freelancing because of the global health crisis.
  • 86% of freelancers think the industry has an even brighter future ahead of it, despite the health crisis.
  • 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.
  • 41% of postgraduates freelance.

The Size of the Gig Economy

Roughly 36% of US workers are part of the gig economy, either through their primary or secondary jobs.

(Gallup, Statista)

So, 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 revealed that more than a third of all US workers - around 57.3 million people in total - were employed as independent workers before the global health crisis struck. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 52% of worldwide gig economy workers lost their jobs due to the economic downturn. Meanwhile, 26% had to settle for reduced working hours.

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 freelancing. This shows how much people depend on the gig economy financially, with many 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.

The number of freelance workers kept growing until the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

(Wonolo, MBO Partners)

Based on the information published by Wonolo, the total number of freelancers in the US increased by 4.2% in 2017, compared to 1.3% in 2015. However, the MBO Partners’ report revealed the number of full and part-time gig workers with consumers as primary customers decreased by 34% at the start of the global health crisis in 2020.

US independent workers spent more than a billion hours per week freelancing pre-COVID-19.

(Upwork)

According to a freelance industry report provided by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, employee monitoring data shows that freelancers spent a total of 1.07 billion hours per week freelancing pre-pandemic.

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

(Forbes, Upwork)

Upwork statistics show that the number of independent workers is growing three times faster than the total US working population, which indicates a bright future for the gig economy. Moreover, compared to non-freelancers, independent workers are better equipped to weather the coronavirus storm.

US freelancers contributed $1.21 trillion to the American economy in 2020.

(MBO Partners)

The MBO State of Independence report points out that the revenue generated by both full and part-time independent workers during last year equates to about 5.7% of US GDP. This is partly thanks to advances in technology and connectivity, which enable freelancers to tap into markets across the globe.

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.

Recent forecasts put the number of freelancers in the US at 86.5 million by 2027.

(Wonolo, Statista)

According to gig economy facts provided by Wonolo and Statista, more than half of the country’s workforce will be doing some form of freelance work in the coming years if growth trends persist.

Job Security and Satisfaction in the Gig Economy

A growing number of independent workers are increasingly comfortable in the gig economy, with approximately 56% saying they feel more financially secure.

(MBO Partners)

Gig economy statistics from 2020 provided by the MBO’s State of Independence show that more than half of the full-time independent workforce feels more financially secure than they would in traditional jobs. Although financial security is one of the most important factors when it comes to employment, job security and medical coverage are often big concerns for freelancers.

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 are highly optimistic about the future and would not go back to traditional employment, no matter how much money was on offer.

11Millennials are fueling the expansion of independent work and account for 33% of all freelancers.

(MBO Partners)

Between 2011 and 2020, the percentage of millennials making up the independent workforce grew from just 12% to a full third. Another 26% of freelancing jobs in the USA are held by Boomers, while Gen X accounts for 25% of the independent workforce. Gen Z only makes up 16% of the total, but as the newest generation to enter the workforce, it’s expected to establish itself as the most entrepreneurial generation ever.

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.

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 reveals 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 satisfied as traditional workers.

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

(McKinsey, Upwork)

In its Independent Work study, Mckinsey found that a substantial number of traditional job workers in the US and five other countries would like to become primary independent earners. Meanwhile, according to Upwork’s report, 64% of freelancers say that professionals who are at the top of their industry are increasingly switching to working independently. The data only serves to highlight the growing popularity of freelance work.

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 the demographics covered, independent workers who switched to the gig economy by choice were the most satisfied with their working arrangements.

About 59% of male gig workers and 74% of female freelancers say they enjoy working independently because of the flexibility this type of work offers.

(MBO Partners)

Freelance statistics show that the majority of independent workers aim to stay independent. 54% of men and 43% of women earn more money working as freelancers.

The percentage of independent workers who freelance by choice rose from 55% to 67% between 2011 and 2019.

(MBO Partners)

This trend was disrupted in 2020 with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when the percentage of gig economy workers who said they were freelancing by choice fell to 59%. This was the same level recorded in 2016.

The mean freelance hourly rate ranges from $10 to $28 worldwide.

(Payoneer)

Payoneer’s 2020 Income Survey shows that hourly rates for freelancers fall between $10 and $28 in the most popular fields, with the average income for freelancers being $21. In all cases, this average is significantly higher than the national average in the respondents’ home countries. These freelance rates go some way to explaining why people begin to freelance or switch completely to the gig economy.

66% of full-time freelancers work as independents in order to be their own boss.

(Statista)

Some of the key reasons for freelancing include the ability to work remotely, schedule flexibility, extra money, and independence. Many freelancers also like being their own boss. This is the case with 66% of full-time freelancers who are part of the gig economy as well as 61% of those engaged in part-time freelancing.

The Gig Economy and Tech

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.

Approximately 77% of 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.

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 between 18 and 29 are 53% more likely to use a smartphone to find a job. For US adults as a whole, that figure is 28%.

34% of freelancers use Facebook for self-promotion.

(Payoneer)

Drawing from Payoneer’s gig economy statistics, we can see that more than a third of freelancers in the US use Facebook to promote their work. These numbers are similar to the ones reported in 2018. It seems that freelancers enjoy being their own bosses and doing their own PR work.

Global Gig Economy Stats

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

(McKinsey)

That’s up to 162 million working-age people across the US and the EU-15 who are involved in some sort of independent work.

The gig economy in the UK doubled in size between 2016 and 2019, accounting for 4.7 million workers.

(The Guardian)

The UK seems to be following in the footsteps of the US in terms of gig economy growth, with Britain’s freelancer economy experiencing a significant expansion in recent years. Millions of workers - or one in 10 working-age adults - were part of the gig economy prior to the pandemic. The most recent disruptions in the labor market are only increasing people’s reliance on freelance work.

The number of freelancers has increased by 24% between 2008 and 2015.

(IPSE)

According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, 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.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Gig Economy 

Nine out of 10 independent workers in the UK say they are worried about the financial impact of the pandemic.

(IPSE)

Global economic uncertainty has had a direct impact on the real estate market. Gig economy facts reveal that one in four freelancers who said they are not planning to buy a home in the next five years decided to wait because of concerns over the COVID-19 health crisis.

Approximately 10% of the US workforce was forced to pause freelancing due to the pandemic.

(Upwork)

These workers were typically working in industries most impacted by social distancing rules and didn’t have an opportunity to work remotely. About 41% said they were freelancing less than once a month.

About 12% of the US workforce started taking freelance jobs during the pandemic. 

(Upwork)

There’s no doubt that the gig economy is here to stay. Although gig workers in certain fields had to pause, others were presented with an opportunity to work independently as a result of the global health crisis. Technology and automation professionals, digital customer experience, and virtual assistants are in high demand. The most frequently stated reasons that these workers give for starting freelance jobs include financial stability during the recession (75%) and necessity (54%).

61% of US workers who freelanced pre- and during the coronavirus pandemic say they have had the amount of work they want or even more.

(Upwork)

Independent workers have reported a lower negative impact from COVID-19 on their lifestyle, mental health, financial situation, and overall well-being. Still, given the greater emphasis on remote work and outsourcing, many freelancers had to adjust their business development and networking strategies.

Three in 10 freelancers in the United States have applied for financial support.

(Upwork)

Despite having an already established remote lifestyle, 30% of US freelancers said that the opportunity to get financial support during the pandemic was very useful for their business.

The Future of the Gig Economy

86% of freelancers think the industry has a bright future, despite the health crisis.

(Upwork)

According to Upwork’s comprehensive Freelancing in America survey, 86% of all independent workers in the US believe the gig economy will only improve as time goes by. That sentiment is shared by 90% of new freelancers.

41% of those with a postgraduate education freelance.

(Upwork)

Upwork’s research on gig economy trends shows that those with a postgraduate degree are best represented among freelancers, with 41% of them engaged in independent work.

Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025.

(Forbes)

In the coming years, millennials will account for much of the world’s workforce. When we consider that young people freelance more than any other generation, this may signal another boost for the gig economy as a whole.

80% of large US companies plan to increase their reliance on a flexible workforce.

(Intuit)

According to the Intuit 2020 report on the future of gig work, more than 80% of large corporations plan to change their recruitment strategies and use more non-traditional workers in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

Is freelancing on the rise? The stats say yes. There are more people doing gig work, both in the US and elsewhere. Companies are increasingly working with freelancers, the gig economy pumps a significant amount of revenue into the US economy, and most freelancers seem happy with the state of the market. As our gig economy statistics show, the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated the growth of the freelance market. If current trends persist, the gig economy will continue to expand rapidly. Soon, it could even overtake the traditional job market.

Frequently Asked Questions
How big is the US gig economy?

The Bureau of Labor statistics on the gig economy show that there were 55 million workers in this market in 2017. According to the latest and most reliable stats, there are now 57 million gig workers in the US economy, accounting for 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.

About author

Damjan won’t tell you how to run your business, but he will try to advise you on how to save your money and avoid financial ruin. As a staff writer at SmallBizGenius, he focuses on finding the most consumer-friendly services available and provides advice to both established and fledgling businesses out there.

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