For millions of gig workers, the end of the 2018 holiday season means moving on from their seasonal ad-hoc jobs to new employment opportunities.
Many small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) are turning to gig workers for seasonal or temporary needs as they seek more affordable ways to invest in projects or boost staffing during busier times of the year. As of May 2018, 33.8 percent of surveyed workers were or had recently been working a gig job — a slight drop from the 34.5 percent reported in the previous quarter, according to the August 2018 Gig Economy Index.
Gig work’s seasonality can also make it challenging for ad-hoc workers to accept payments. The following Deep Dive examines how gig workers manage the changing seasons of temporary employment.
Gig Workers: A Small Business Boon
Seasonal gig workers are becoming much more common at SMBs, especially during the holiday season. As recently as 2017, SMBs’ hiring of gig workers increased by 37 percent during a six-month period, according to a recent report. This is considerably higher than the hiring rates experienced by other types of workers. On the other hand, the hiring of part-time workers increased by 22 percent.
Employers are hiring temporary gig workers over full-time employees for several reasons. Just over two-fifths (41 percent) of business owners said they hired seasonal gig workers to address temporary needs, while slightly more than half (50.8 percent) said they required gig workers’ expertise. Just over one-third (35.1 percent) said they made temporary hires to keep their cash reserves in check.
Challenges for Workers
Workers who accept these seasonal roles can face a host of challenges. Temporary workers do not have the same legal protections as full-time or even part-time employees, and they do not typically receive benefits such as health insurance or sick days.
Gig workers can also find themselves in unsteady financial waters. According to another study, freelancers are more likely to dip into their savings accounts than their full-time counterparts. This study found that 63 percent of freelancers tapped into their savings at least once a month, compared to 20 percent of full- and part-time workers.
Additionally, gig workers have recently seen declines in payments during the holiday season. The JPMorgan Chase Institute reported that the average monthly pay for gig workers in the transportation industry declined by 53 percent in 2017 over the previous year. According to the report, this decline indicates that gig work related to transportation, such as driving for Uber or Lyft, is not seen as a viable alternative to full-time employment. Chase also found that payments for gig work declined in other sectors. Work related to “selling” activities, for example, dropped by 9.4 percent in 2017 to an average of $608 per month.
It wasn’t all bad for gig workers, though. The report found that leasing-related gig work saw a year-over-year increase of 69 percent in monthly earnings in 2017, reaching an average of $1,736.
Payments’ speed also influences whether gig workers decide to pursue gig work or look for a full-time job. PYMNTS' Gig Economy Index found that 85 percent of gig workers would accept gig work more often if they were paid faster. In addition, three-quarters (75.7 percent) of workers would not leave gig work behind for a full-time job, which speaks to the appeal of the gig economy.
As the seasons shift, gig workers will shift from their temporary assignments to new roles and employers, but while their temporary jobs are wrapping up, these workers still face year-round challenges. As companies look ahead to 2019, making disbursements to gig workers faster and more efficient could be critical to attracting them and keeping them interested.