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Majority of gig workers say they are done with traditional employment

Survey finds just 9% plan return to non-gig employment

A new survey of gig workers found that a majority have no plans to leave the industry, despite concerns of income stability and health benefits. (Photo: Lyft)

The last-mile delivery workforce has received a boost in the form of a new survey that found the majority of gig economy workers plan to stay involved for the foreseeable future.

The survey of over 1,000 gig economy workers was released earlier this month. Conducted by YouGov for financial products company Legal & General Group, the study found that 69% of respondents currently working gig economy jobs plan to continue to do so.

For an industry that is increasingly relying on this labor force to handle the peaks and valleys of e-commerce surges and declines, the results indicate a steady source of labor.

The survey found that 36% of the U.S. population currently makes their living in the gig economy, on contract or in unsalaried work. It was conducted in August and September.

“While not limited to the U.S., the gig economy trend seems to be a particularly American phenomenon—both an outcropping of the independent spirit and also a reflection of the lack of social, health and financial guarantees available to the American population at large,” said Sir Nigel Wilson, Legal & General Group chief executive. “By comparison, current data suggests that only 6.2% of the U.K. population counts itself as self-employed. Our research will explore what’s driving this difference and what’s lacking in the financial safety nets of U.S. gig workers.”

The data-rich survey asked questions regarding why people are involved in the gig economy as well as drawbacks participants face. Legal & General said it would present additional reports based on the results. These reports will dive into income ranges of various gig economy work, the independent-mindedness of gig workers, how gig workers are able/not able to meet basic health, life and retirement needs, and what it would take for gig workers to return to more traditional employment.

“To define the gig economy is a challenge—it comprises everything from best-selling authors to Uber drivers to fishermen. But with flexibility of work hours and freedom to earn as much or more than salaried workers listed as top reasons to stay in the gig economy, there was a clear desire on the part of survey respondents to balance work and life,” said John Godfry, study co-author and Legal & General’s corporate affairs director.

Among some of the key findings released in the first survey report is that fewer than 1-in-10 gig workers (9%) expressed a desire or plan to leave the gig economy for more traditional permanent employment. A clear majority of workers (62%), though, don’t like having to pay for their own health insurance, perhaps indicating the need for some sort of group health option for workers.

A lack of retirement plans and other benefits normally associated with full-time work was also a top drawback, with 67% concerned about the lack of these benefits. Job stability is also a concern, with 65% worried about security and predictability of income.

However, those working the gig economy see some clear benefits, including 35% that said they can make more money this way than in traditional employment (that number was 54% among gig workers making more than $100,000 annually), and 19% said they just can’t imagine working in a corporate setting.

“During the past several years, discussing the gig economy has become a polarized, politicized debate—often overshadowing the voices of real gig workers. Opponents of gig work often dub this practice ‘precarity labor,’ viewing gig work as an excuse for corporations to not offer healthcare and job security,” the report noted. “Proponents of gig work see the practice as quintessentially American—offering workers the freedom and individuality to work when they want, however much they want. As one gig worker we surveyed put it: ‘All my life I have wanted to work for my own company. There is no going back!’”

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]