Millions Give Up The Day Job For Gig Economy

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Written By Farid Shojaei

The traditional job involving turning up at a workplace every day and putting in a shift is changing to a gig economy for millions.

Instead of treading the well-worn employment path, almost a third of workers in the US and Europe are choosing when and how long they want to work.

Research by the McKinsey Global Institute reckons 162 million people in North America and Europe work independently – which adds up to almost a third of the working age population.

The study found most workers fitted into one or more of four categories:

  • Free agents – Workers who choose to operate as independents and derive their primary income from the activity
  • Casual earners – People who choose when to work to top-up their earnings
  • Reluctants – Workers who earn their primary income from gig working, but who would prefer a ‘straight’ job
  • Financially strapped – Workers who need more cash so supplement their earnings from gigs

The survey also disclosed that 30% of gig workers are free agents, 40% are casual earners, while reluctants (14%) and the financially strapped (16%) make up the rest.

More job satisfaction for free agents

The gig economy is spreading like wildfire worldwide as online enterprises such as Uber, AirBnB and Deliveroo find traction in international markets and other local start-ups try to emulate their success.

“Those who do independent work by choice – the free agents and casual earners – report greater satisfaction with their work lives than those who do it out of necessity,” say the report “ Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy”.

“This finding holds across countries, ages, income brackets, and education levels. Free agents reported higher levels of satisfaction in multiple dimensions of their work lives than those holding traditional jobs by choice, indicating that many people value the nonmonetary aspects of working on their own terms.”

Momentum to grow

The report explains jobs in the gig economy have three features – lack of management control, a short-term working relationship and payment on completing a sale or a task.

“Independent work is rapidly evolving as digital platforms create large-scale, efficient marketplaces where workers connect with buyers of services,” said the report.

“While this digital transformation unfolds, several other forces may fuel growth in the independent workforce: the stated aspirations of traditional workers who wish to become independent, the large unemployed and inactive populations who want to work, and increased demand for independent services from both consumers and organisations.”