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Gig Economy: Statistics and Definition [2020 Trends Update]

The economic turbulence caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 has caused many to either turn to or turn away from gig work. This is what the gig economy looks like in numbers.

Maciej Duszynski, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert
Gig Economy: Statistics and Definition [2020 Trends Update]

The outbreak of coronavirus disease has changed our reality. One of the consequences we’re all experiencing is a growing number of people losing jobs and looking for alternative sources of income.

Back in 2007 when the Great Recession struck, the job market saw a significant rise in the number of the so-called gig workers—people entering non-standard work arrangements to keep themselves afloat. Since then, the gig economy has grown into a force to be reckoned with, and the new COVID-19 reality feels like a good moment to have a closer look at the gig economy statistics.

The Gig Economy—Definition

The gig economy denotes a free market system based on short-term work arrangements between companies and independent workers.

The participants in the gig economy include:

  • Consultants
  • Freelancers
  • Independent professionals
  • Contractors
  • Temporary workers
  • Others

It’s important to note that participation in the gig economy encompasses part-time as well as full-time work. The “gigs” could be a person’s main source of income or a secondary one. Because of its decentralised and transient nature, the gig economy has been notoriously hard to measure—to a point where independent studies reach conflicting conclusions.

One thing is sure, though. The gig economy became more and more pronounced after the Great Recession of 2007. In that time, the number of “gigs” outpaced the growth of traditional work relationships based on employment contracts.

Additionally, over the past decade, it has become much easier for anyone to participate in the gig economy. This is mostly due to a large number of apps and online marketplaces that bridge the gap between supply and demand. Today, the gig economy brings together millions of people and has become a trillion-dollar industry.

Even though the 2020 outbreak of the coronavirus disease will surely affect the numbers this way or another, the stats we compiled here give meaningful insights into the state of the gig economy as we’re moving into the second decade of the 21st century.

Gig Economy Statistics—The Big Picture 

The gig economy statistics below will give you an overall image of the gig economy in the US. 

The first four figures show how the estimates of the number of gig economy participants differ from one survey to another.

  • In the US alone, gig workers will pass 40% of the entire labour force by 2020. (INTUIT)
  • 44% of the gig economy participants treat their gig work as the primary source of income. Among the gig workers between 18 and 34 years old, this is true for about 53%. (Edison Research)

gig economy statistics

  • 1 in 6 people working in traditional jobs expresses a willingness to start earning their primary living from working independently. (McKinsey)
  • It’s estimated that gig economy workers accounted for over £1.4 trillion of the total 2018 US income. (PYMNTS)
  • About 20–30% of the US and EU-15 working-age population do some independent work. (McKinsey)
  • 36% of the US workforce take part in the gig economy as their primary or secondary jobs. (Gallup)
  • 38% of gig economy participants are aged between 18 and 34. (Edison Research)
  • About 55% of gig workers are also employed full-time. (PYMNTS)

gig economy statistics

  • 14% of gig economy participants work in arts, entertainment, design, sports, and media. About 10% works in sales and related fields. These are the two largest groups. (PYMNTS)
  • Making extra money and covering daily expenses are two main reasons why about 19% of gig workers participate in the gig economy. (PYMNTS)
  • It’s estimated that about 40% of the American workforce makes over 40% of income via gigs. (PYMNTS)
  • In mature economies, 3% to 10% of workers use gig platforms as a secondary source of income. In some developing countries, the number goes up to 30%. (BCG Henderson)
  • The number of people who do gig work at least once a month went up to 14.9 million in 2018 from 12.9 million in 2017. Since 2016 this number has risen 42% (from 10.5 million). (MBO Partners)
  • 1 in 5 people who do gig work over 15 hours a week, has customers outside the US. (MBO Partners)
  • The earnings in the transportation sector declined by 53% and increased by 69% in the leasing sector. (JPMorgan Chase)

Gig Economy Statistics—Contingent Work by Choice 

The numbers below refer to those gig economy participants who consciously chose this mode of work and plan on continuing to work this way.

  • About 64% of gig workers do their preferred kind of work. (Gallup)
  • 60% of workers whose livelihood depends on the gig economy have no need or don’t want to look for alternative employment. (PYMNTS)

gig economy statistics

  • About 37% of those who spend over 15 hours a week doing gig work are aged 21–38. (MBO Partners)
  • Those who actively chose to participate in the gig economy admitted to being more satisfied with their work than those forced by circumstance. (McKinsey)
  • About 41% of gig workers admit they were hired because of their unique skills to complete a project at a company that hired them. (PYMNTS)
  • Around 45% of gig workers want to remain independent and keep acquiring new clients to increase their income. Only about 20% of them would like to get a full-time job. (BCG Henderson)
  • The top three reasons why people choose to participate in the gig economy are meaningful and interesting tasks, self-employment, and flexibility with organising work. (BCG Henderson)
  • About 63% of gig workers agree that having a portfolio of various clients is more secure than working for just one employer. On average, a freelancer has 4.5 clients monthly. (Upwork)

gig economy statistics

  • 44% of full-time gig workers rely on word of mouth to find work. About 12% fall back on social media. Roughly 4% admit that online job platforms matching buyers and sellers are their primary method of finding a job. (MBO Partners)
  • 79% of full-time gig workers said they were happier working on their own than doing a traditional job. (MBO Partners)

Gig Economy Stats—Gig Workers by Necessity

The gig economy statistics listed below illustrate what the situation looks like for those who have no alternative.

  • 45% of those who treat gig work as their primary source of income score more than 50 on the Anxiety Index. Of those employed traditionally, only 24% have such a high score. (Edison Research)

gig economy statistics

  • Roughly 58% of gig economy participants for whom this type of work is the primary source of income would find it hard to cover an unexpected expense of £400. About 44% of gig workers who fall back on gigs to supplementtheir income would have a similar challenge. (Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018)
  • 63% of those who do freelance jobs full-time fall back on their savings at least once a month. This is true for only about 20% of non-freelancers working full-time. (Upwork)

Gig Economy Statistics—What Employers Say

The gig economy offers a range of benefits to employers. Apart from on-demand access to highly skilled professionals, companies can economise on employee benefits or office space.

  • Over 50% of gig workers are mostly employed by companies. (PYMNTS)

gig economy statistics

  • About 40% of executives anticipate freelancers to join their organisation’s workforce over the coming 5 years. About 50% assume that corporations will start using gig platforms to source external workers. (BCG Henderson)
  • More than 30% of organisations report widespread use of alternative employment arrangements for IT, 25% for operations, 15% for marketing, and 15% for research and development. (Deloitte)
  • Almost 75% of executives acknowledge the importance of gig workers in sourcing hard-to-find skills. (SAP Fieldglass)

Gig Economy Stats—App-Based Drivers

Nowadays, gig work is often associated with app-based drivers. The emergence of such apps as Lyft or Uber has brought the gig economy into public awareness more than anything else. The statistics we put together in this section paint a picture of this particular segment of the gig economy.

  • The income of 40% of NY drivers is so low that they qualify for Medicaid. Plus, 16% of them have no health insurance and almost 20% qualify for federal supplemental nutrition assistance. (New School and the University of California Berkeley Report)

gig economy statistics

  • Between 60–65% of app-based drivers in NY work full-time and have no other job. About 80% of them acquired a vehicle to earn their living. (New School and the University of California Berkeley Report)
  • Between 2014 and 2017, the earnings of Uber drivers who work at least 50 hours per week dropped roughly 30%. (New School and the University of California Berkeley Report)
  • About 50% of app-based drivers operating in New York provide the bulk of their family’s income. (New School and the University of California Berkeley Report)
  • Uber had an implied market valuation of £82.4 billion and raised £8.1 billion in its initial public offering. (CNBC)

Gig Economy Stats—Technology

The stats in this section show the influence of technology on the gig economy landscape.

  • Almost 70% of gig economy participants aged between 18 and 24 use the Internet to find a job. Of those aged over 64, slightly more than 40% do the same. (PYMNTS)
  • It’s estimated that online talent networks manage over USD 2 billion in outsourced activities. (Deloitte)

gig economy statistics

  • Over 70% of freelancers admit that the amount of work they got via online platforms increased in 2019 (up 5 points since 2016). (Upwork)
  • Out of those people who lease assets to make money, 25–40% use digital platforms (e.g. Airbnb, HomeAway, or VRBO). (McKinsey)
  • Only about 6% of US and EU-15 gig workers used such platforms as Upwork, Uber, or TaskRabbit. (McKinsey)
  • Among those who earned via transportation platforms at any time in a year, almost 60% had earnings in just 3 or fewer months of that given year. (JPMorgan Chase)
  • For families that participate in the gig economy, earnings from online platforms account for 54% of their income in the months when they use them. (JPMorgan Chase)
  • About 15% of gig workers have used a digital platform to make money. (McKinsey)
  • Among those who took part in the gig economy via online platforms at any time in a year, the average earnings from these platforms accounted for about 20% of total income in any month of that year. (JPMorgan Chase)

Gig Economy in the Developing Economies

The data we gathered below presents what the gig economy looks like in India

gig economy statistics

  • India is the second-largest market of freelance professionals (c.a. 15 million people) who amount to about 40% of total freelance jobs worldwide. (ICRIER)
  • In Delhi alone, about 560,600 people joined the city’s gig economy over a period of 6 months prior to March 31, 2019. (Livemint)
  • 70% of employers used gig workers at least once or twice for solving organisational issues in 2018. (The Economic Times India)
  • Between 2018 and 2019, over 72% of all gig projects took place in big corporations. This is a jump from 52% back in 2017. (The Economic Times India)
  • 73% of people would opt for gig work over conventional full-time employment. (NobleHouse)
  • About 45% of people regard freelancing as an important trend shaping the IT sector. (EY)

Key Takeaway

With more and more companies suffering from the effects of the coronavirus outbreak and an increasing number of people losing their traditional jobs, chances are that the gig economy will experience growth. This has been the case back in 2007, and with another recession looming on the horizon, the scenario may repeat itself.

One thing we can easily say about the gig economy as a whole is that it’s a widespread phenomenon whose effect on the bottom line has to be reckoned with. However, since the gig economy is hard to measure, we may have to wait a while to learn about its real-life impact.

What do you think about the stats we’ve compiled here? Have you recently landed a gig job? Are you an active participant in the gig economy? We’d love to hear from you. Give us a shout out in the comments below.

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Maciej Duszynski, CPRW
Experienced in the education management industry, Maciej shares his knowledge for every step of your job hunt, from landing an internship to moving to an executive position. Maciej has helped job candidates at all stages of their career paths, from interns to directors to C-suite members, to thrive in their job. His mission is to help you find the right opportunity and create a job application that gets you the career you deserve.

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