The Rise And Rise Of The Gig Economy In The US

The gig economy has been on the rise in recent years, with Upwork reporting (in its Freelance Forward report) that around 59 million Americans performed freelance work last year, representing around 36% of the workforce. Many went from temporary to non-temporary. For instance, in 2020, around 33.8% only formed part of the gig economy on a part-time basis while by the end of 2021, this percentage had grown to 35%. The freelance economy is predicted to grow, with Upwork researchers stating that 56% of non-freelancers said they were likely to embrace this mode of work in the near future. Many are also working second jobs that are non-gig-based.

The Economic Contribution Of Freelance Workers To The US Economy

Freelancers contributed $1.3 trillion to the economy in annual earnings, representing a $100 million rise from the previous year. This pattern is being echoed in the rest of the world, with a case study by Brodmin indicating that the number of freelancers is rising steadily in the Western world. The UK is echoing the US experience. From 2016 to 2019, for instance, their freelance workforce more than doubled to a total of 4.7 million. Gig work is in big demand among workers with disabilities, who are happy to work from home and share their expertise. Legal reform may be required if disabled workers are to contribute as much as they wish to the gig economy. Currently, benefits for disabled freelancers are protected. However, if workers are on Supplemental Social Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance, they are subject to hours or earning caps. On the other hand, working freelance can be a good way to work up the required time that one needs to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance.

Highly Educated Workers Are Attracted To The Gig Economy

The Upwork report also found that freelancing is attracting some of the most highly educated workers in the US. Around 51% of postgraduate workers are embracing gig work, which represents a rise of 6% from the year previous. Meanwhile, the percentage of high school graduates (or those with lesser educational qualifications) has dropped by 6% in the same time frame.

What Skills Are In Demand

Some of the most in-demand skills in the gig economy include IT, business consulting, computer programming, and marketing. These industries lend themselves to an online work model, enabling people to telecommute and enjoy a better work-life balance. While these professionals are in high demand, they are at risk of over-saturation of the market, as more graduates in their fields desire a piece of the freelance pie.

Dancing To One’s Own Rhythm

When asked what attracted workers to the gig economy, the answers were freedom and flexibility. As their own boss, workers can create a work schedule that is completely different from that of their clients, so long as they comply with specifications and deadlines. Being one’s own boss is another oft-cited benefit of this work model. Many are pleased to have the discretion to choose who they work with and find collaborators that share their values and vision.

The freelance economy has been growing in importance over the past few years. Statistics indicate that it isn’t going anywhere, with millions of people in the US and beyond attracted by the freedom it brings. While higher education seems to be linked to gig work, those who are making a full-time living as freelancers should consider establishing niches and expanding their skills, to ensure they remain competitive on the new gig-based scene.