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Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy

What is it measuring?

This survey asks a broad range of questions about work, including arrangements, experiences, motivations, and satisfaction. Rather than measuring independent work through a single question, researchers identify respondents whose work is characterized by independence regardless of formal arrangement. The traits used to define independence are having high levels of worker autonomy, payment by task, assignment, or sales, and a short-term relationship between workers and customers.

What does it tell us?

In the U.S., 27 percent of workers are engaged in work of an independent nature on a primary or supplementary basis, including some online sellers and property renters.

How is it collected?

Through an online survey in six countries, including the U.S. The survey was administered to a panel selected to be demographically representative, with 8,131 respondents globally and 1,804 in the U.S.

Who collects it?

McKinsey Global Institute, the business and economics research arm of McKinsey.


The process used to identify independent work includes some activities that are excluded by other measures, including renting property online through capital platforms. In addition, online panels are not fully representative, and tend to undersample low-income populations.

How to access this data?

Privately held by McKinsey Global Institute


Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy Report; 2016; James Manyika, Susan Lund, Jacques Bughin, Kelsey Robinson, Jan Mischke, Deepa Mahajan; McKinsey Global Institute;