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Where Gig Work Left Off in 2020: Gig Workers Part I

In today’s quickly-evolving, digital world, the traditional employment framework has been replaced with an on-demand, flexible employment.

Gabriel works whenever and wherever best suits him. He’s a writer focusing on HR and leadership techniques, providing quality content to clients around the world. “The most attractive part of my work is the freedom and flexibility to set my own hours. I can work for whomever I want, as long as there’s good Wifi!”

Gabriel is one of thousands of gig workers making up the diverse gig workforce across different occupation and employment types.

Recap: What is the Gig Economy

In today’s quickly-evolving, digital world, the traditional employment framework (in-office, full-time, etc.) has been replaced with an on-demand, flexible employment composed of short-term, long-term, independent contractors or freelancers that can offer their availability and services to anyone, anywhere.

What is the typical gig worker and how many hours do they work? Well, that all depends on the employment arrangement. Many studies have tried to assess who a typical gig worker is, but there isn’t a single profile for this category. These alternative, nontraditional work arrangements can be anything from personal shopping to designing a logo. The bottom-line is that gig workers are classified as 1099 workers, with all the perks and benefits that these self-employed independent contractors receive.

A gig worker that is hired to get groceries for an “employer” can work for three hours every other day, essentially like working a shift. Or, a gig worker that is hired to drive a local ambassador to different locations and events during their one-month stay can work on a project-basis.

Once the work arrangement is completed, the gig worker can move on to the next one, whether with the same employer, the same company, or something entirely different.  

From 2% to 34% and Climbing

Putting a finger to the exact number of contingent workers in the US is a challenge in and of itself. The estimations reported by surveys and data collections sometimes don’t take into account gig workers that also hold other part-time or full-time jobs. Others don’t take into account gig workers that did not work during the time period the survey was conducted (which can be over the course of a week). Due to the dynamic nature of gig work, it’s difficult to follow changes and shifts in employment.

In a 2005 survey, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found  that independent contractors, or contingent workers, accounted for around only 2 to 4 percent of the entire workforce. That was the last official study conducted until 2017, where the Labor Bureau reported that 55 million people in the US are gig workers, accounting for 34 percent of the entire workforce.

This was a huge and startling statistical jump for the gig economy, ushering in new expectations for this new, flexible workforce. The number was then projected to increase to 43 percent in 2020.

Predictions vs. Reality

Now that 2020 has finally come to its dramatic close, what happened to the gig economy and its multitude of gig workers?

The dispersed and infrequent data collected on the gig economy workforce results in circulating information being essentially rough estimations. One estimate of the size of the current gig workforce is 57 million people, based on a 2019 “Freelancing in America” survey. The BLS reports that today’s US labor force has roughly 155 million “wage and salary” workers, in all sectors, meaning that the gig workforce is estimated to be roughly 37% of the entire labor force.

The estimated 37 percent is significantly lower than the 43 percent that was predicted for 2020, most probably being affected by the latest adverse events caused by the pandemic outbreak and its effects on the jobs market.

Around the Gig Economy World

Top Gig Countries

According to the Global Gig Economy Index, here are the top 5 countries with the fastest growing economies for gig workers:

  1. United States – No surprises here. In 2019, there were 57 million people working in the freelance market in the US.
  2. United Kingdom – With 4.8 million self-employed workers and a year on year revenue growth of 59%, the UK joins the US at the top of the freelance countries ranking.
  3. Brazil – Freelancer revenue has risen by 48%, ranking it amongst the best opportunities for the first time in 2019.
  4. Pakistan – Recently, freelancing increased by 47% as the country continues to promote the key role freelancing plays in the economy.
  5. Ukraine – High numbers of IT students have helped produce an increasing rate of IT experts for freelancing opportunities in the country. Interestingly, millennials consist of 54% of the Ukrainian freelance workforce, but earn a whopping 58.3% of its revenue.

Popular Gig Jobs

  1. Driver - amongst one of the most popular gig jobs today, the driver workforce can choose what hours they are available to drive, transporting any service from food and packages to people
  2. Handyman - handiwork is still relevant, and necessary - with the market looking for qualified individuals to help with different physical projects, move heavy items, set up new appliances and more
  3. Health tester - this new type of job that has emerged due to pressing Covid-19 demands, where health professional and nurses are scheduled on-demand to help with testing for the virus
  4. Pet care - pet owners are always looking for solutions to help them with pet sitting and dog walking, with many gig individuals also house-sitting along the way
  5. Home renting  - a popular exchange of a different type of a commodity - property - actually puts the owners of these properties in the gig workforce category

The highest paying jobs are ones that require high-speciality skills and top talent, like lucrative technology jobs that include artificial intelligence, programming, robotics and blockchain technology.

Best Gig Sites

Digital platforms and a wide array of mobile apps helps gig workers find jobs and opportunities essentially anywhere these days.

  1. Uber/Lyft - these well-known and popular apps help match consumers with gig drivers
  2. Fivver - specialized and talented workers can find an array of gig opportunities, especially in graphic design, writing and marketing
  3. Ubeya - the flexible workforce management platform helps workers join companies with available opportunities and helps companies utilize their workforce in the best way possible
  4. Fountain - this mobile hiring platform for hourly and on-the-go workers helps candidates easily apply for any job, from anywhere
  5. Airbnb - connecting between property owners and individuals looking for property commodities; like other apps, Airbnb facilitates the exchange of services in a straightforward way

Expectations for 2021 - Reshaping Work for the Future

As the number of people joining the freelance and gig platforms grows increasingly larger each year, not only is that number expected to grow in 2021, but we can also expect to see major changes in what job opportunities are available.

What’s hot for 2021?

  • HR and Recruiting - these gig jobs are taking off, especially for companies working based on consumer and trend demands.
  • Customer Service - representatives for delivery platforms, supply chains, call centers and more are already in high demand - and expected to escalate.
  • Healthcare - this umbrella term includes health coaches, physical therapists and nurses that will be needed by all individuals in order to stabilize the current health situation.

In a crazy way, Covid-19 actually had some sort of positive impact on the jobs market - it created new job opportunities that didn’t exist, or existed at smaller quantities, prior to the outbreak.

As up-and-coming technologies continue to present new opportunities to a flexible-minded workforce, facilitating collaboration and far-reaching availability, we expect to see the gig economy expand into new directions on a global scale.

Further Reading