The NatCen Panel, a probability-based online survey of 2,184 individuals in Britain, was used to provide a prevalence estimate of the number of people involved in the gig economy.
- The NatCen Panel found that 4.4 per cent of the population in Great Britain had worked in the gig economy in the last 12 months. This is roughly 2.8 million people. This figure is based on a one off study with a relatively small sample but provides a robust guide to the number of gig economy workers.
- Those involved in the gig economy were generally younger than the rest of the population. Over half of those involved in the gig economy (56 per cent) were aged 18 to 34 compared to 27 per cent of the whole sample.
- The levels of educational attainment were similar between the general population and those involved in the gig economy.
- Those involved in the gig economy most commonly lived in the London area.
- While just 13 per cent of the general sample lived in London, 24 per cent of those involved in the gig economy were based there.
Nature of gig economy work
Providing courier services was the most common type of gig economy activity. Forty- two per cent of those involved in the gig economy had carried out courier services in the last 12 months. Performing other jobs found through websites or apps2 was almost as common, mentioned by 37 per cent of those involved in gig work. Provision of transport services (28 per cent) and food delivery services (21 per cent) were slightly less common in comparison.
Uber was the most commonly mentioned platform used. In total, 18 per cent of those who had been involved in the gig economy work said they had provided services through the app. Freelancing platform PeoplePerHour and delivery service Deliveroo were both mentioned by 12 per cent. A wide range of other platforms were also being used.
Length of involvement in the gig economy varied, but those involved tended to have started providing services through apps and websites fairly recently. Thirty-eight per cent said that they first got involved in the gig economy in the last six months. Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) had been working in the gig economy for between six months and two years. Just 14 per cent had been involved in the gig economy for more than two years.
For over half (55 per cent) of those working in gig economy involvement was relatively frequent, happening at least once a month. For nine per cent, involvement in the gig economy took place on a daily basis. For others, involvement took place less frequently with 14 per cent saying they only carried out their activity between once and three times a year. In addition, 14 per cent said that their involvement in the gig economy had been ‘one-off’.
Gig economy income
One in four respondents (25 per cent) reported that they earned an hourly income of less than £7.50 per hour.3 Hourly wages varied depending on the type of gig work the respondent was engaged in. Those performing other types of jobs found through websites and apps were significantly more likely to earn less than £7.50 per hour (45 per cent). In comparison, only 10 per cent of those providing courier services reported the same level of hourly pay. Overall, those providing courier services earned the highest levels of hourly income from their work with a third (32 per cent) earning £13 per hour and above.
The level of annual earnings from the gig economy was relatively low. In the last 12 months, two in five of those in the gig economy (41 per cent) said that they had typically earned less than £250 through their services offered on websites and apps. In addition, 87 per cent of everyone involved in gig economy said they had earned less than £10,000 in the last 12 months.
Based on the method of calculation used in this research, the estimated mean income from the gig economy was £5,634. However, this is skewed by a relatively small proportion of high earners. The median gig economy income is £375.4 The findings suggest that income earned in the gig economy forms a small proportion of most gig workers’ total annual income. Approximately two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents earned less than five per cent of their total income in the gig economy in the last 12 months. Just one in eleven (nine per cent) respondents earned a large majority of their income (greater than 90 per cent of their total income) in the gig economy.
Most commonly, respondents saw the income from the gig economy as an extra source of income on top of their regular income (32 per cent). Fewer than one in ten respondents (eight per cent) saw the money earned in the gig economy as their main source of income.
Opinions were split in terms of the importance of the gig economy income in maintaining current standard of living. While 42 per cent saw this source of income as important, a similar proportion (45 per cent) saw it as not so important.
Attitudes towards gig economy
Overall, more than half of those involved in the gig economy were either very or fairly satisfied with their experience of providing services on websites and apps (53 per cent).
Independence and flexibility were the two aspects that those working in the gig economy were most often satisfied with. Over half of all gig economy providers were satisfied with these two aspects of their work (58 per cent and 56 per cent respectively).Those in the gig economy were less satisfied with their work-related benefits and level of income with one in four (25 per cent) saying they were very or fairly dissatisfied with those aspects of their work.
Those who deemed the income from the gig economy to be important to their standard of living were likely to be more satisfied with all aspects of their work providing services through websites and apps. For example, the majority (74 per cent) of those to whom the income from the gig economy was important were satisfied with their overall experience compared to 48 per cent of those to whom this source of income was not important
Those to whom the gig work was their main source of income and those who treated their work in the gig economy as a source of income while they focus on something else were particularly satisfied overall with their experience: 90 per cent of those to whom the gig work was their main source of income and 71 per cent of those to whom the work provided a source of income while they focus on something else said they were ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ satisfied with their experience of working in the gig economy.
When those involved in the gig economy were asked whether they plan to continue providing services in the next 12 months, 41 per cent said they are going to continue in this type of work while 39 per cent said they will not. In addition, one in five (20 per cent) were unsure.
Those in the gig economy were often positive about their level of income and overall financial situation in the coming 12 months although a significant minority were not. Just over a third (34 per cent) thought that their level of income would definitely or probably get better. The same proportion (34 per cent) thought their level of income would stay about the same, while 16 per cent thought that it would probably or definitely get worse.