Skip to main content

Definitions of Independent Work

One of the reasons that estimates of the size of the independent 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

Self-reported

Administrative

Self-reported

Self-reported

Administrative

Self-reported

 

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 traditional 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

Sampling population

Population

Tax filers

Population

Workforce

Account holders

Work-age population

Sampling method

Probability sample

Random sample

Probability-based online sample

Reweighted online panel

Saturation

Targeted electronic sampling

Data source and publication

Collected by

BLS

Dpt of Treasury

Federal Reserve

Edelman Intelligence

JPMorgan Chase Institute

McKinsey Global Institute

Author

 

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.