Not many sectors of the economy can claim 2020 was a good year for them. The global pandemic and its resulting lockdowns led to desperate conditions topped only by the Great Depression. Official unemployment reached 14% in the US, and most formal jobs were too uncertain about the future to hire new workers. Unable to find traditional work, many relied on savings and unemployment benefits to survive. Still other unemployed Americans took their situation into their own hands and tried gig work for the first time.
2 million Americans tried gig work for the first time in 2020, some temporarily. While the rest of the economy struggled, gig work continued its rise in prevalence at an astonishing rate. The gig economy grew 33% in 2020, 8.25 times faster than the national economy as a whole. Perhaps the largest propellant of the gig economy’s growth was an expanded reliance on delivery service. Apps like DoorDash and TaskRabbit used people’s unwillingness to leave the house to popularize their services. These apps rely on gig workers to set their own hours and fulfill local orders at will. While lockdowns are receding, new habits have been formed by these services, and the industry is expected to reach a total value of $200 billion by 2025.
Yet gig work is not confined to delivery service. Gig work takes place in a variety of industries, each of which was affected differently by the pandemic. Gig workers can be babysitters, hair stylists, photographers, movers, or landscapers. They can hold almost any kind of skill set, and their freelance approach to employment will play an enormous role in post-pandemic recovery.
Getting a Living Wage With Gig Work
Gig work made it possible for people to weather harsh economic times, but can it provide a decent living in other situations as well? The answer is usually yes. Full time delivery drivers make almost $50,000 a year; not a glamorous wage, but not a shabby one either. Gig work offers flexible employment based on project completion. Unlike most traditionally employed persons, 58% of gig workers work fewer than 30 hours a week. Depending on the nature of the job and terms with a client, gig workers can be paid more than traditionally-employed peers are at a 9 to 5. Another part of gig work’s appeal is its relatively low barriers to entry. In many gig jobs, experience and reputation matter more than educational attainment. High school grads can earn just as much as college degree holders. It is also worth remembering that gig work and traditional employment are not exclusive; someone can hold a formal job and take gigs on the side.
Companies are embracing gig work at a growing rate. Pandemic uncertainty about the future revealed the flaws of years-long contracts with employees. When companies hire gig workers, their commitment does not extend beyond their current project. As a result, 4 in 5 US companies are planning to increase their reliance on gig workers going forward. Freelancers who develop their clientele early benefit most.