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Definitions of Gig Work

One of the reasons that estimates of the size of the non-standard workforce vary so much is because of the different definitions used. The chart below summarizes the definitions used by key sources of data. You can find more detailed information on each of these sources, and links to the data itself, under Data Sources.

If your browser does not display the chart correctly, you may download a PDF version here.



BLS Contingent Worker Survey

IRS Tax Data

Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking

Freelancers Union

JPMorgan Chase Institute

McKinsey Global Institute


Type of data








Reference period

Past week

Past year

Past month

Past year

Past 36 months

Past year

How independent workers are identified

Relies on work arrangements





Relies on tax status






Relies on nature of work





Arrangements and activities included

Identifies specific employers






Includes primary work only






Includes secondary or supplementary work (in addition to primary)


Includes temp agency work




Includes on-call work






Includes contract-company work






Includes self-employed, freelancers, and/or independent contractors

Includes standard full-time work that has features of independent work






Includes platform-mediated AND work arranged in person


Includes platform-mediated work ONLY






Includes informal work (unreported, under the table, off the books)






Includes some capital activities (selling/renting) as independent work





Sampling population


Tax filers



Account holders

Work-age population

Sampling method

Probability sample

Random sample

Probability-based online sample

Reweighted online panel


Targeted electronic sampling

Data source and publication

Collected by


Dpt of Treasury

Federal Reserve

Edelman Intelligence

JPMorgan Chase Institute

McKinsey Global Institute



Emilie Jackson, Adam Looney, and Shanthi Ramnath

Barbara Robles and Marysol McGee

Freelancers Union, Upwork, and Edelman Intelligence

Diana Farrell and Fiona Greig

James Manyika et al.