Gig Economy Statistics & Trends For 2021 and Beyond

Feb 18, 2021

google trends for gig economy, statstical data

The gig economy seems like a relatively new term, but in fact, has been around for a long time in the form of freelancing jobs. It wasn’t until Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy apps flooded the marketplace that people began to really talk about the gig economy in different terms.

The truth is that the gig economy is much more than Uber drivers or independent contractors making extra money. It’s a robust and growing industry having a significant impact on the workplace in 2021 and beyond. You only have to check out these gig economy stats and trends to understand just how much.

What is the Gig Economy?

RELATED: What is a Gig?

man teaching what a gig is to gig workers

Side hustle. Alternative work arrangement. Gig worker. These are only a few terms floating around when it comes to the gig economy. The simplest definition for the gig economy is a free marketplace where companies use independent gig workers for one-off or temporary jobs instead of hiring full-time workers.

Rather than your primary job being a regular 9-5 gig where you clock in and out every day, your income comes from multiple jobs. Or, in some cases, make up a side hustle to cover an unexpected expense or supplement your full-time job income. The most significant difference between the gig economy in the past and now is that most gig workers use a gig platform like ShiftPixy to find work.

Is the Gig Economy Growing?

In the Gig Economy and Alternative Work Arrangements Report by Gallup, the number of gig economy participants makes up 36% of the U.S. workers, either in their primary or secondary source of income. (1)

It’s estimated that if the number of workers continues to increase, the gig economy will encompass more than 50% of the total U.S. workforce by 2027, according to the Freelancers of America Survey by Upwork and Freelancers Union. This translates into millions of workers in the gig economy. This statistic alone tells us that the gig economy is growing fast.

Is the Gig Economy Good?

The gig economy is a hotly debated issue on gig economy websites and news sites. Is it good to be a temporary worker? Does this leave them without a safety net? Are they happier? Upwork freelance statistics indicate that gig workers enjoy their jobs 84% of the time, and traditional workers enjoy 54% of the time. 30% is a big difference when it comes to enjoyment. (2)

But if you remove the enjoyment consideration and look at why people say the gig economy isn’t a good thing, what they are really talking about is employee protections, benefits, and retirement.

Gig workers usually don’t have health insurance, paid time off, or retirement plans, which is problematic for some. If 50% of the workforce participates in the gig economy in some form, they may not have the necessary safety net that traditional employees have.

However, the benefits of the gig economy are freedom, flexibility, and autonomy. So, if these are what you’re looking for, then the gig economy isn’t bad at all. In fact, lifestyle may be more important than security.

Key Statistics For the Gig Economy

Gallup estimates that the number of gig economy workers in the U.S. (either through primary or secondary jobs) is 36%.(1)

  • By 2027, the U.S. will have 86.5 million independent gig workers, according to Upwork.
  • 53% of gig workers aged 18-34 receive their primary source of income from working in the gig economy, according to Edison Research. (3)
  • Edison Research also shows the primary source of income for 44% of gig workers is through gig work.
  • 1 in 6 individuals working in traditional jobs desire to switch to gig work, shows a McKinsey report.
  • In 2018, gig economy workers made up $1.4 trillion household income in the U.S. (4)
  • 40% of wages come from gig jobs for roughly 40% of the U.S. workforce. (4)
  • JPMorgan Chase states that the transportation sector experienced a drop of 5% and increased by 69% in the leasing sector. (5)
  • 53% of freelance workers also keep full-time employment. (4)
  • The two main reasons for 19% of gig workers in the gig economy is to bank extra money or cover monthly costs. (4)
  • It’s thought that 40% of contingent workers will make up the U.S. workforce in 2021 and increase worldwide. (6)
  • 60% of independent workers don’t look for alternative work because they don’t need or want to find something else. (4)

Gig Economy Trends

Technology Will Continue to Be a Catalyst

Freelancers have been around for some time. Still, it wasn’t until the proliferation of the gig economy platforms that made it possible for independent earners to jump into the gig economy. Technology platforms will continue to connect gig work to freelancers in every industry.

While traditional job boards will still offer access to gigs, the best way to secure gig work is through innovative digital platforms, such as ShiftPixy. Signing up is free, takes minutes, and brings job opportunities to your fingertips.

Gigsters Will Use Multiple Platforms

RELATED: What is a Gig Worker?

gig worker making food delivery

Gig economy platforms offer multiple jobs for users around the clock. Most gig workers will use various job platforms to find work. Relying on one job platform or social media site to find work may make it harder to reach your earning potential. However, it can become cumbersome jumping from app to app, so choosing one or two that bring you steady work is critical for success.

The Gig Economy is For Everyone

Workers participating in the gig economy come from every walk of life. The average freelance worker has a college degree and wants the freedom and flexibility that gig work supplies.

While a higher number of workers in the gig economy are in the age group 18-34, baby boomers are moving towards the gig economy. Regardless of your background, age, or education, the gig economy is for everyone.

Independent Workers Loses Its Stigma

Working in the independent workforce used to come with some stigma. Even if you had a consistent part-time gig, you were somehow seen as less valuable. Also, there’s this idea that if you’re a gig worker, you’re not reliable, committed, or talented enough for full-time work. However, all of this is changing.

Independent workers want autonomy, flexibility, and freedom to be their own boss. As more people switch to the gig economy, the stigma will disappear.

Gig Workers Receive Traditional Stability

Most independent contractors are in the gig economy by choice, yet they still deserve the benefits of traditional stability. The biggest worry about being a gig worker is the lack of health insurance. However, gig workers are starting to demand health insurance, workplace protections, and paid sick leave from gig employers.

Typically, you need to work full-time to receive these benefits. Yet if you hire a large number of independent contractors, you don’t have to offer these perks. Some apps, such as ShiftPixy, are already offering health insurance and other benefits for their gig workers.

Gig Economy Retrains Traditional Employers

The desire for work-life balance for participants in the gig economy is changing what traditional employers offer their full-time workers. To retain workers, employers must provide flexible schedules, work from home opportunities, consistent job feedback, and autonomy to retain talented workers. In a nutshell, the trend is to give traditional workers all the benefits gig workers receive, including a full-time salary.

Gig Workers Unionize

The Freelance Union is pushing for gig workers across industries to unionize regardless of how many hours per week you work. Full-time work usually can help workers become financially secure, but this is also possible with gig work. Unionizing is one way to ensure this is possible for gig workers. There is a trend to unionize.

Gig Economy Will Continue to Grow

The freelancer economy will only continue to grow. Gig workers from delivery drivers to media experts find steady work in one-off jobs. The freedom, flexibility, and autonomy make this an attractive option.

Also, in some industries finding full-time work is challenging, making the gig economy necessary for some. It also provides a way to earn extra cash needed by many American workers. Regardless if you agree or disagree with the gig economy, the evidence is in the sheer numbers of workers entering the gig economy each year.

Key Takeaway

86.5 million independent workers will use an online platform to find gigs by 2027. Not only will the number of people involved in the gig economy continue to increase, but it will have a profound effect on how traditional jobs are structured.

Companies hiring full-time employees may need to offer the benefits gig economy workers receive, such as flexibility, freedom, and autonomy to attract talent. Gig workers will be seen as valuable as traditional workers, and the stigma of working multiple jobs will disappear. ShiftPixy already understands this by offering health insurance and other benefits to its gig workforce.