• Two workers in yellow Wonolo shirts stand smiling in front of a concession stand.

A new world of work is here and many eyes are on the future of the gig economy. Built largely on flexibility for both workers and businesses alike, the gig economy empowers contingent workers to choose how, when, and where they work. Meanwhile, companies have the ability to quickly and efficiently adapt labor needs based on real-time business and market demands. Both sides also benefit from the fact that anyone – including freelancers, contractors, students, retirees, and part-time workers – can participate in the gig economy. And this group of contingent workers has been growing rapidly.

The Rise of the Gig Economy

There have been many workforce trends over the years but none have reshaped the future of work like the gig economy. In 1995, we saw that almost 10% of the American workforce was already engaged in alternative work (as independent contractors, temp agency workers, contract company workers, and on-call workers). Fast forward to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth of this contingent workforce. Roughly 35% of the U.S. workforce was involved in the gig economy in 2020. That’s about 57 million people. 2 million of those Americans worked as gig workers for the first time. That year, $1.2 trillion was contributed by freelancers to the U.S. economy.

Who are Contingent Workers?

The alternative workforce is diverse and filled with people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and ages. The generational makeup of contingent workers is roughly:

  • 50% Gen Z
  • 44% Millennials
  • 30% Gen X
  • 26% Baby Boomers

A group of contingent workers wear Wonolo shirts and walk away from their temp job location for the day.

In an Edison Research study, 40% of female respondents reported that gig work is their primary source of income, while 47% of male respondents reported the same. 

Some of these gig workers are closing in on retirement and picking up gigs for a little extra cash. Others are still working other full-time and part-time jobs and choosing flexible gig work to supplement their income. No matter the reason for adding a side hustle to their income, they often desire more flexibility in their schedule – which gig platforms like Wonolo provide.

What Stands Out about the Gig Economy?

While the gig economy is known for companies like Uber and Airbnb (which can connect individual service providers with individual service requesters), 38% of companies reported increased engagement with freelancers. And with how quickly the gig economy is growing, more companies are bound to pay attention. Some of the reasons companies report interest in working with contingent workers include:

  • They uplevel and update their skills often.
  • They move fast and often ramp up quickly.
  • They are flexible, choosing where and when they work.
  • They are relationship builders and see success in referrals.
  • They are happier and healthier working independently.

Two workers in hardhats and orange vests talk in a warehouse.

The Future of the Gig Economy

With hundreds of thousands of Americans leaving their jobs to find their inner entrepreneur or make the shift to gig work during what’s been coined the “Great Resignation,” the contingent workforce is projected to grow even larger. However, as the gig economy grows, so do workers’ expectations.

As labor tendencies continue to evolve, it’s crucial to understand what workers want and what attracts them to different jobs. To learn more, we look to our internal data. According to a survey of 3,000 contingent workers on the Wonolo platform, only 34% of workers are satisfied with their current work situation. Moreover:

  • 79% of respondents indicated they are employed, but not earning enough.
  • 73% of the responding Wonoloers said they’re working at least one job.
  • 74% said they were planning to leave a current job or look for more opportunities in order to increase their wages.
  • 72% of respondents were looking for supplemental income.
  • 50% of survey respondents indicated they were struggling to make ends meet.

While higher pay seems to be a large contributing factor toward workers joining the gig economy, what about job flexibility, perks, and the opportunity to learn new skills? Our survey showed:

A text graphic displaying the top three reasons survey respondents are leaving a current job or looking for more opportunities.

A text graphic displaying what contingent workers are looking for in temporary jobs on a scale of 1 to 10.

Given these insights, it is no surprise that Wonoloers have flocked to the numerous jobs posted on Wonolo – which are posted in a diverse range of light industrial industries, offer competitive pay, and provide opportunities to expand their skills.

What We’ve Learned

If the last couple of years has taught us anything, it’s that the world can be unpredictable. That’s why flexibility is truly more important than ever. Although contingent workers may not be permanent members of your team, this large and diverse alternative workforce can bring a lot of talent to your company – especially when you need it most.

Embracing the gig economy makes the world of work simpler. It also has the power to help stabilize your company. To start filling jobs and scaling your labor needs alongside your business, join Wonolo to connect with contingent workers now.