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The “Gig” Picture: One-in-three Canadians have done some kind of informal work in the past five years

As governments and policy makers measure Canadian growth by, among other things, employment rates, new data shows millions of adults in this country are earning their livings by doing “gig” – or informal – work.

While companies such as Airbnb and Uber are putting discussion of the gig economy on the front burner, it’s a concept with which Canadians are already well acquainted.

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds that one-in-five Canadian workers (17%) are currently engaged in the gig economy, while the same number (17%) have worked this type of work at some point in the past five years – but aren’t now.

The most common types of work for people in this freelance field include office-based projects such as graphic design or computer programming, as well as for-hire handywork, babysitting and childcare.

Ultimately, the country is divided about whether this is good or bad for workers in this country overall.

Considering the benefits and risks, Canadians are more likely to say that the gig economy is more of a bad trend than a good one for workers. That said, those who rely on the gig economy for their financial wellbeing, due to being unable to find steady work elsewhere, are more positive than negative.

Despite their more positive opinion of informal work, these gig workers face more financial uncertainty than others. Canadians who have relied on the gig economy to make ends meet are much more likely to have annual household incomes below $50,000, are far more likely than other segments of the population to be worried about household job security and are less likely to feel that they are on track to have a comfortable retirement.

More Key Findings:

  • Overall, Canadians see both the pros and cons of informal work. While some celebrate the increased income available to willing workers (74%) and the potential to better control one’s work-life balance (39%), many have concerns about the lack of benefits (66%) and poor regulations around some companies in this industry (55%).
  • Men and young women ages 18-34 are most likely to have participated in the gig economy in the past five years, in each case at least four-in-ten have. That said, one-quarter of those over 55 years of age have done so as well.
  • While gig economy workers are more likely to come from lower-income households, a significant number of Canadians across the income spectrum have taken part in this type of work within the past five years, including 31 per cent of those with household incomes over $150,000.
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