Looking Past The Assumptions Of Gig Work

It’s the standard complaint of people when they get old. Those youngsters are just so darn lazy, unwilling to make their way in the world by working double shifts or taking on weekend jobs as their forefathers did when they built this nation with their bare hands, a stale apple for lunch and no possibility of sick days.

Yeah, that’s probably not true  not in this era of gig and freelance work.

The latest evidence in favor of the work ethic of those young people (aka millennials?): A survey from Bankrate found the much-maligned generation — typically considered to include people born after 1980 — is more likely than other workers to have a side gig. In fact, 51 percent of millennials have at least one of those jobs to earn extra cash.

Debt And Job Insecurity

Economic circumstances play a significant role in pushing millennials into the gig economy.

“When I talk to millennials, I think two things really come up. One is that they’re very aware that there’s no job security, so they’re the least likely generation to kind of settle into a full-time job and assume that everything’s going to be OK,” Diane Mulcahy, author of The Gig Economy and an adjunct lecturer at Babson College, told Bankrate. “The other reason is clearly economic. Most millennials — at least on the professional end who have been to college — have significant debt and a lot of them are looking for ways to either build a financial cushion or reduce their debt faster.”

The Bankrate survey was limited to 1,000 U.S. wage earners. By contrast, the recent Gig Economy Index from PYMNTS, in collaboration with Hyperwallet, based its analysis of recent work trends on survey responses from 10,444 people. That report found that 55 percent of gig workers hold “regular” full-time jobs, that situation more likely the younger the worker is — supporting the Bankrate findings.

“Less educated and older workers are more likely to work exclusively in the gig economy, and to do so without full-time jobs,” the report said. “This shows that gig workers cannot be painted with a broad brush, as their skills, occupations, levels of participation and motivation vary widely.”

In fact, 15 percent of gig workers have no regular jobs, according to the Gig Economy Index, while 12 percent of gig workers have regular, full- and part-time jobs. A further 19 percent hold one or more regular part-time jobs.

Gigging To Buy Fun Stuff

Not all gig workers use those jobs to earn money for rent, food, fuel and other essentials. Bankrate said that 59 percent of that labor force takes on side jobs mainly for disposable income — no doubt, an encouraging statistic for retailers. But when it comes to younger gig workers, more than half of them reported that their expenses are equal or, or exceed, their incomes.

The Gig Economy Index goes into greater detail about what drives gig workers. Nearly one in five of the respondents said those side jobs help them keep up with day-to-day bills. Necessity is not the only motivation, though. Work flexibility was cited by 16 percent of respondents, with 14 percent taking on gig jobs to support hobbies or personal passions. Disposable income, meanwhile, was a reason cited by 17 percent of those respondents.

Learning or expanding skills provided the drive for 6 percent of respondents.

Vast Varieties Of Gigs

“Gig workers have vastly different attitudes toward ad hoc work, depending on their employment status,” the PYMNTS report said. “Many who work exclusively in the gig economy appear to be true believers, whether out of principle or necessity. Most do not want or need a regular job, and only 24 percent are looking for one.”

The gig economy is expanding globally, maturing and spreading into all kinds of work areas and industries. Payment providers are rushing to keep up and capture the business of those workers and their employers. As these two surveys show, there exists ample revenue opportunity for those smart enough to look past the assumptions and really meet gig workers on their own terms.