While the “gig economy” has become a sort of umbrella term for more flexible work structures, like freelancing, than the traditional 9-to-5 jobs, there is no question that the global workforce is experiencing a reinvention. Here we present a breakdown of data and research that explains what has led us to this point and what the future holds.
First of all, let’s understand how big the gig economy is in the United States. The annual study by Freelancers Union and Upwork found that 35 percent of the U.S. workforce “are freelancers”, including a 60 percent of that 35 percent that are still primarily traditionally employed while maintaining a freelance side hustle. Nation1099 estimates that 11 percent of U.S. workers are careerist freelancers.
Now let’s get into some of the more specific data.
WHO is participating in the gig economy?
It comes as no surprise that millennials are the predominant demographic in the freelance workforce. More tech-savvy and more focused on factors such as creative freedom and work/life balance than previous generations, millennials and younger generations are choosing alternative paths.
- 61 percent of Gen Z professionals in APAC countries agree that job seekers are seeking flexible and contract-based roles. – 2018 APAC Workforce Insights – Gig Economy: How Free Agents Are Redefining Work, PERSOLKELLY
- About 47 percent of U.S. respondents in the age group of 18 to 34 years did freelance work in 2017, compared to 34 percent of respondents aged 35-44, 31 percent aged 45-54, and 32 percent aged 55 and up. – Statista
- 74 percent of Millennials are curious about freelancing, as compared to 57 percent of Generation X, and 43 percent of older Baby Boomers. 40 percent of Millennials intend to leave their full-time employers to work as a freelancer within five years. – MetLife Employee Benefits Trends Report, 2017
WHAT fields are freelancers working in?
Nearly any field or industry can offer freelance and contract opportunities these days, thanks to remote work and communication technology.
Flexjobs found the following ten industries to hold the best and most opportunities for freelancers.
- Computer and IT
- Accounting and finance
- Customer service
- Software development
- Medical and health
- Project management
- Research analyst
- Education and training
FreelancingHacks.com offers this list of the highest paying fields for freelancers:
- Programming and Software Development
- Web Design and Development
- Content Marketing/Writing
- Graphic Design
- Video Editing
- Social Media Management
WHERE is the gig economy thriving?
The gig economy is a global phenomenon, though most data collected on it focuses on U.S. and European markets.
- 36 percent of the U.S. workforce (57.3 million people) freelanced in 2017 – Freelancing In America, 2017, UpWork/Freelancers Union
- 20-30 percent of the working-age population in the United States and the European Union engage in independent work – Independent Work: Choice Necessity and the Gig Economy, McKinsey Global Institute
- Spain and Slovakia have both have 13% rates of self-employment – Professional Contractors Group
- Italy has a 21% rate of self-employment – Professional Contractors Group
WHEN will gig work become the majority of work?
Again, the numbers vary based on the different types of freelance work and how each study qualifies them, but the growth rate is significant and we do appear to be on a path toward a predominantly freelance workforce.
- There is a projected 3.6 percent annual growth in independent workforce. – MBO Partners State of Independence In America 2017
- By 2020, 25 percent of businesses will have a contingent workforce comprising at least 30 percent of its talent resources, with one in five workers across the globe actively engaged in gig or freelance work. – Global Contingent Workforce Study, EY
- By 2027, more than half of American workers — 58 percent — will have had some experience as independent contractors. – MBO Partners Looking Forward: What Will the Independent Workforce Look Like In 2027?
WHY is the global workforce shifting toward gigs and freelancing?
This answer is rather complex given the numerous factors involved. These are a few of the main factors driving workers away from traditional employment and toward freelancing.
Work/life balance has become a priority among workers of all ages and industries. Americans in particular prize hard work, meaning that, to get ahead, people often work long hours and neglect their own personal lives. But more and more people are pushing back against the idea that they have to work themselves to the bone in order to be successful.
- One-third of professionals globally say that work-life balance is becoming more difficult. Excessive overtime and a lack of flexibility are among the top reasons people leave jobs. – Work-life Challenges Across the Generations, EY
- 81 percent of working parents say work-life balance is more important than pay when looking for a new job. 70 percent have thought about leaving a job because it doesn’t offer flexibility. – Working Parents in 2017: What They Want at Work, Flexjobs
- Among millennials, 69 percent wish they had chosen a job with better work/life balance, and 44 percent wish they had chosen a job they enjoyed more. – 2018 Better Money Habits Millennial Report, Bank of America
In this same vein, remote work and telecommuting, which helps many achieve their desired work/life balance, is still sorely lacking as an option in many full-time engagements. The ability to telecommute is in high demand among workers of all kinds.
- 50 percent of U.S. jobs are compatible with remote work arrangements and 80 percent of the workforce says they would like to work remotely at least part time, yet only 7 percent of employers make flexible work available to most employees. – Global Workplace Analytics
- 24 percent of professionals globally say they would take a 10 percent pay cut to be able to telecommute. – Work-life Challenges Across the Generations, EY
- 74 percent of North American office workers say they would quit their jobs for another that allows them to work remotely more often. – Collaboration Unleashed, Softchoice
Though “side gigs” are common in the freelance world, it’s no longer about earning a few extra bucks; there is opportunity to make real money as a freelancer.
- 19.8 percent of full-time independent workers earn more than $100,000. – MBO Partners State of Independence In America 2017
- 2 out of 3 freelancers make more money than they did in their old job. 36 percent earn more than $75,000/year. – Freelancing In America, 2017, UpWork/Freelancers Union
- 72 percent say they make the same amount or more money than they did before. – 2016 Field Nation Freelancer Study: The Changing Face of the New Blended Workforce
- The average freelancer reaches their financial goal in 23 months. – State of the Freelance Nation 2018 Survey, WiseBrand
This is just a slice of the exciting data around the growing gig economy and there is certain to be tons more in the coming years as it evolves. We’ll continue to examine new trends and update data as it becomes available. It’s going to be a very interesting ride!
About the Author:
Dr. Mir Emad Mousavi, PhD is the founder and CEO of QuiGig and an advocate of using most advanced technologies to bring convenience, security, and new opportunities to average citizens. QuiGig was founded by Emad on this basis and to bring quickness, simplicity, security, and affordability to employers and freelancer.