The gig economy may be growing, but that’s not a good sign for workers.
A new Prudential Financial white paper finds that while the gig model is beneficial for employers, thanks to its ability to convert many fixed costs to variable, cut benefits costs, and allow for resource flexibility, it’s not such a good deal for workers. Although gig work provides flexibility and allows workers the chance to be their own boss, it’s changing how employers and employees interact—as well as making the work stream unpredictable, cutting employees off from benefits and subjecting them to lower average pay than that collected by traditional full-time employees
Prudential’s Gig Worker On-Demand Economy survey sought to understand gig workers and to evaluate gig work’s effects on financial wellness—and the picture it paints in the white paper isn’t pretty.
In surveying freelancers, independent contractors, and on-demand or temporary workers (rather than people who make money through rentals, such as Airbnb or selling goods via such services as Etsy), the study found that of the three segments of workers it identified, gig-only workers not only come off considerably worse than traditional workers regarding current pay, but their potential for retirement is also threatened.
The three types of workers identified by the survey are gig-only, gig-plus (those who do gig work but also have either a full-time or part-time job) and full-time (those with traditional full-time jobs). Gig-only workers live with “less stability of income and ‘job security,’ have to self-fund their benefits and retirement savings and pay self-employment taxes,” the report points out, but here’s the kicker.
Gig-only workers on average make just $36,500 annually, compared to full-time employees who make an average of $62,700 per year. They do work fewer hours—a median of 25, compared to full-timers’ 40 hours—but gig-plus workers also make less than full-timers, averaging $55,800, despite working an average of 44 hours compared to full-timers’ 40. That makes it tough for them to keep up with day-to-day financial needs.