Seems you can't swing a cat without hitting a new study
aimed at better understanding the gig economy and gig workers. Just
within the past couple of weeks, two important studies were
released that provide in-depth data about types of gig workers and
what motivates them.
The first report is from the Institute for the Future, a Palo
Alto-based think tank that studies workplace trends. The report, Voices of Workable Futures: People Transforming
Work in the Platform Economy, reflects in-depth interviews with
31 workers across a range of ages and socio-economic backgrounds in
cities across the U.S. to determine patterns of workers'
experiences. The report breaks workers into seven archetypes: the
part-time pragmatist, the savvy consultant, the freelancer, the
full-time gig worker, the re-entry worker, the entrepreneur, and
the hustler, profiling each with detailed examples. The second part
of the report discusses eight building blocks these workers are
shaping, given that the workers, who lack traditional HR
departments or onboarding processes, "must often improvise,
learn from each other, and make their own way." The
report's conclusion, which urges policymakers to take action,
is aptly titled "something gained, something lost,"
pointing to benefits and pitfalls of platform economy work.
The second report, Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig
Economy, by McKinsey Global Institute, reflects satisfaction
levels of workers engaged in independent work in the U.S., France,
Spain, Sweden, Germany, and the U.K. The results are not
surprising: those who work gigs by choice report that they are
"happier than people in traditional jobs by every
measure." The broad study includes not only those working for
the well-known app-based companies like Uber, but also workers such
as maids, therapists, accounts, personal trainers, babysitters, and
tutors. In addition to perks like independence and flexibility,
nearly 20% of such full-time workers earn more than $100,000 a
According to the study, which includes a survey of 8,000 gig
workers and data from the government and other sources, of the
estimated 20% to 30% of the populations (about 60 million people in
the U.S. alone) in the six countries who engage in independent
work, 44% count on gig work for their primary income. The vast
majority of the gig workers who rely primarily on independent work
for income do so by choice; only a small percentage of the workers
claim to work independently by necessity. These numbers vary among
the six countries that were the subject of the study, with a much
higher percentage of workers who gig by necessity in Spain than in
the other countries.
Overall, the research reflected in the McKinsey study confirms
what we have repeatedly heard: despite a minority of reluctant gig
workers, most gig workers have a high level of satisfaction and
have no desire to return to the traditional work model. Another
interesting point from the research is the surprisingly small
percentage of gig workers who earn money from app-based companies
like Uber and its rivals. While the percentage of the workforce
engaging in alternative work arrangements has increased by more
than 50% in the past decade, only 0.5% of the workers gig for
The undeniable takeaway from these most recent studies? The gig
economy is exponentially growing and we still have a lot to learn.
Thankfully, you have no shortage of resources, starting with this
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