The “gig economy” is one of the hottest terms in the business world right now. As someone who is a living, breathing consultant who has done work via multiple talent platforms the coverage is a bit mystifying. Companies who have thousands of full-time workers are writing about the great benefits of the gig economy while likely employing only a handful of gig economy workers to work on projects at their company.
The BLS recently released data on “electronically mediated employment” which covers both in-person works like Uber, Consulting and TaskRabbit as well as online-only work such as remote consulting, and online workplaces like Mechanical Turk and Clickworker.
The takeaway from the data: The platform gig economy doesn’t match the buzz
When I group the workers in the professional, finance, information industries, I found that only 770,000 people are doing work in the gig economy via talent platforms. This is less than 1% of the workforce. This is likely a good estimate of the number of freelance consultants doing work via talent platforms.
Uber & Airbnb Have Created Opportunities, But Not That Many
Within the data, you also find that the number of people operating via platforms like Uber and Airbnb is surprisingly small These workers make up an even smaller proportion of the workforce, less than 0.3% of the employed population.
The gig economy makes for great headlines and the talent platforms may be a great idea, but they are doing a better job of creating international labor arbitrage opportunities and enormous wealth for anyone with equity. In the US at least, most of the work in our economy is still being done via traditional work arrangements.