Independent work exists across a wide range of occupations. It may include designing websites, driving, management consulting, care work, and more. Because independent work is usually defined by how it’s organized rather than the content of the work, it blurs traditional boundaries. Divisions like blue collar versus white collar, manual versus intellectual labor, or service versus goods don’t necessarily apply. Work in all of these categories can be part of the gig economy, depending on how it is arranged.
Construction and professional services take the lead
Gig work can—and does—happen in almost any industry, from oil extraction to healthcare. Across surveys, the construction industry has the highest percentage of independent work arrangements: almost a quarter of construction workers are in independent and alternative work arrangements. Independent work in the construction industry, though, is not new. Carpenters, installers, electricians, and plumbers have tended to work independently for decades. Professional and business services, a diverse category that includes accountants, architects, janitors, and administrative support workers, have similarly had a high yet relatively stable rate of independent arrangements.1
- 1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements – May 2017” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, 2018), https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/conemp.pdf;" Gitis, Ben, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Will Rinehart, “The Gig Economy: Research and Policy Implications of Regional, Economic, and Demographic Trends” (Washington, DC: American Action Forum and Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, 2017), https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/gig-economy-research-policy-implications-regional-economic-demographic-trends/. See also Prudential, “Gig Workers in America – Profiles, Mindsets, and Financial Wellness” (Newark, NJ: 2017), https://www.prudential.com/media/managed/documents/rp/Gig_Economy_Whitepaper.pdf; FreshBooks, “Second Annual Self-Employment Report” (Toronto, ON: 2018), https://www.freshbooks.com/_themes/freshbooks/brand-assets/2018selfemploymentreport.pdf.
Rates of growth vary across industries
Other industries have experienced growth in the past decade. The transportation industry has seen an increase in the number of workers in alternative arrangements, and especially independent contracting in the past twenty years.1 Although more data is needed to know conclusively, rideshare drivers, like those for Uber and Lyft, may be behind this jump.
In addition, some types of gig work do not fit into conventional industry classifications, such as the selling of homemade goods online.
- 1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements – May 2017"