Working in the Gig Economy

Photo of someone using a cell phoneOn Labor Day, we consider the nature of employment for many of the nation’s workers. Today’s WatchBlog looks at the opportunities and challenges that “gig” workers—those employed in on-demand, non-standard work—may face.

Who are gig workers?

While there is no official definition of gig workers, we identify them as self-employed workers performing single projects or tasks on demand for pay. In many cases, they may get work through app-based platforms, like drivers for ridesharing companies or furniture movers. Gig workers may work either part-time or full-time, whether as a main or supplemental source of income.

What opportunities do gig workers have?

Workers may choose gig work for many reasons. Some potential benefits of gig work:

  • flexibility (to work around other responsibilities, such as childcare)
  • autonomy (ability to set own hours and be “own boss”)
  • income (supplemental or to fill in between jobs)
  • the ability to help build a business, a resume, or experience
  • low barrier to entry
  • the ability to pursue a passion

What challenges do gig workers face?

Some challenges gig workers might encounter:

  • lack of financial security
  • lack of benefits
  •  increased risk that arises from increased liability and high rate of failure in self-employment, among other reasons
  • lack of stability
  • challenges to running a business

What training is available for gig workers?

We examined the training needs of gig workers and noted that gig workers may benefit from developing soft skills (such as customer service, time management, and self-motivation) and business skills (like marketing, financial literacy and management). Many of these skills can be provided through existing federal programs that help individuals navigate the challenges of self-employment. However, officials on the ground cited a lack of information about promising practices for gig work as a challenge to providing support.

With new opportunities for gig work, our nations’ system of workforce protections and supports may have to adapt to changing needs. We also will need more information on this segment of the workforce in order to provide this support.

For more information, check out our full report.


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