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Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy

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A full-time job with one employer has been considered the norm for decades, but increasingly, this fails to capture how a large share of the workforce makes a living. A narrow focus only on traditional jobs ignores tens of millions who put together their own income streams and shape their own work lives. Although independent work is not a new phenomenon, it does not fit neatly into official labor statistics. This report aims to fill some of the data gaps surrounding it.

Independent work has three defining features: a high degree of autonomy; payment by task, assignment, or sales; and a short-term relationship between worker and client. Our definition encompasses people who provide labor services as well as those who sell goods or rent assets.

Our research reveals that 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population in the United States and the EU-15, or up to 162 million individuals, engage in independent work. This is based on analysis of existing data as well as an extensive MGI workforce survey across six countries.

Digital platforms are transforming independent work, building on the ubiquity of mobile devices, the enormous pools of workers and customers they can reach, and the ability to harness rich real-time information to make more efficient matches. Today these online marketplaces are used by 15 percent of independent workers. But the rapid growth of the largest platforms suggests we have only just begun to see their impact.

Source : McKinsey Global Institute

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