- An estimated 44 million people took on gig work in the US in 2015, with 29% of all American workers performing gig/contingent work last year. That translates into spending $792 billion on gig work in the same time period, according to new research from Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), a global advisor on staffing and workforce solutions.
- The report, Measuring the Gig Economy: Inside the New Paradigm of Contingent Work, based on a survey of over 7,000 U.S. adults, found that close to 40% of people overall prefer alternatives to a traditional job, with 69% of independent contractors and self-employed workers preferring to engage in work outside of a full-time employment situation.
- For purposes of the study, which SIA believes is the first estimate of its kind around U.S. contingent workforce spend, the gig economy includes any contingent work, such as independent contracting, consulting, freelancing, seasonal work and other temporary work. While the term gig is closely connected to freelance work triggered by an internet platform or app, SIA uses the term as more broadly describing any work explicitly short-term.
At close to $800 billion, gig and contingent work truly does represent a very large economic sector, similar to areas that get much more scrutiny and understanding. According to SIA, it's important to understand what is happening in the gig economy, mainly because there is a significant portion of the U.S. workforce that "prefers alternative work arrangements to traditional, full time employment."
However, while the SIA economic estimate may be on target, there is conflicting research that polled nearly 4,000 U.S. workers and found that 67% who did contingent work would turn down that type of work in the future. In addition, in the poll from Deloitte, more than 60% of employed workers polled believe they would risk losing their economic stability by switching to independent contract work, with 42% very concerned about losing good compensation and benefits. However, close to half (48%) who experienced the independent contractor role were "very satisfied" with their experience.
It would seem the HR leaders who are involved in managing contingent workforces are receiving some conflicting data, so they should tread carefully. There is evidence that HR is sometimes unaware of exactly how much contingent work is happening at their organizations, so that's another front that bears attention.