The gig economy by the numbers

How big is the gig economy, a.k.a. the sharing economy or the on-demand economy? Whatever you call it, it’s growing. A poll says 44 percent of U.S. adults who are Internet users have participated in it, and 22 percent have offered goods or services in this economy.

The poll, by Time, the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative and PR firm Burson-Marsteller, offers new numbers besides the ones we’ve become familiar with i this new economy. For example, that Uber is valued at more than $50 billion, or even up to $70 billion. Or that Airbnb has a $1 million host guarantee (which might come in handy in some cases).

How far-reaching has this new on-demand economy been? Survey says:

  • 22 percent of U.S. adults have participated in ride-sharing (or ride-booking), with 10 percent driving for Uber, Lyft or Sidecar (which is getting out of the business).
  • 19 percent have been involved with services such as Airbnb, with 10 percent opening up their homes to host strangers.
  • 17 percent have participated in the service economy, using platforms such as TaskRabbit, and 11 percent have provided services.
  • 14 percent have participated in the car-sharing economy, using Zipcar and similar services.
  • 11 percent have participated in the food and goods-delivery economy, using Instacart, Caviar or PostMates.

The survey, which polled 3,000 people in late November, also found that 61 percent of the drivers/deliverers/errand-runners are male, 55 percent are members of a racial/ethnic minority, 51 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 41 percent live in an urban area.

There have been regulatory issues surrounding this on-demand economy, including how workers should be classified, how the service providers should be taxed and restricted, and more. According to the survey, 47 percent of the general population agree that this economy is “exploiting lack of regulation.” As for whether the government should step in: 37 percent say yes, while 34 percent say no and 28 percent are undecided.


Photo by Associated Press


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