Not long ago, direct sales companies — like beauty supplier Avon and health & beauty firm Amway — offered independent agents the opportunity to earn money selling their products door to door. Meanwhile, staffing agencies have provided businesses with temporary workers for decades, to cover for those who are on leave or temporarily out sick.
These freelance, ad hoc jobs were examples of gig work well before anyone affixed a “gig” label to them. Today, thanks to connected devices (online payment platforms, as well as platforms that aggregate supply and demand in real time), the gig economy is thriving.
We see that in the numbers. Approximately 33.8 percent of the U.S. workforce has participated in the gig economy in some way.
For the new Gig Economy Index, PYMNTS surveyed nearly 10,000 U.S. gig workers. This is the sixth edition, and has given interesting insights that we believe may be foretelling of more significant shifts to come.
Among the most significant shifts is the share of gig workers who had moved away from having a full-time job. In Q2 2018, PYMNTS found 47 percent of gig workers had a regular, nine-to-five job, a drop from 55 percent in Q1 2018. This shift indicates that a growing share of workers see gig work as a viable career path over traditional work.
The key factor that drives workers to eschew traditional employment for full-time gig work is flexibility. A quarter of surveyed gig workers named this as their top motivation for joining the gig economy. This becomes even more important for younger workers, as 22 percent of full-time gig workers, aged 18 to 24, and 30 percent of those in the 25-to-34 age bracket cited flexibility as the main reason they participated in the gig economy.
However, this past quarter also saw an uptick in older workers participating in the gig economy. PYMNTS found 18 percent are in the 45-to-54 age bracket, up from 16.6 percent. This suggests that some experienced workers are leaving full-time positions to take on full-time gig work, perhaps due to growing demand for their skills, the chance to earn additional income and the ability to enjoy a more flexible work schedule.