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The on-demand economy continues to grow as more people participate in it, both on the consumer and worker sides, and as more digital platforms emerge that connect individuals to these types of services. New research shows that many of the people who labor for the sharing economy are doing it, not to take part in some hip new prospect, but because they need the job to pay their bills.
The survey, conducted in August 2016 from Pew Research Center, looked specifically at the workers providing the labor that the on-demand economy runs on.
A small, though not insignificant portion of the US population has participated in this type of work in the past year. According to Pew, 8% of the US population made money through an on-demand platform such as driving for a service such as Uber, cleaning homes via Handy or running an errand for someone via TaskRabbit.
The on-demand economy has often been associated with workers who use this type of work as a “side hustle” to gain some extra spending money. This is true for some, but more than half of these workers rely heavily on this income to make ends meet. According to Pew, 56% of on-demand economy workers said that these earnings are “important” or “essential” to support their basic needs.
Pew found that these on-demand economy workers who said this income is “important” or “essential”—vs. those who said it’s “nice to have”—are much more likely to be non-white, have household incomes below $30,000 and have a high school degree or less. They’re also more likely to perform tasks that require physical labor, such as ride sharing, cleaning or doing laundry, instead of performing online tasks such as completing surveys or data entry.
Motivations for this workforce varied as well. Employees who strongly rely on these earnings had a greater tendency than those who say the income is “nice to have” to do this type of work to keep a flexible schedule, to gain work experience or do it because there is a dearth of jobs where they reside, vs. having something fun to do with their spare time.
Pew found that on-demand economy workers in general are three times as likely to be black, and twice as likely to be Hispanic, than white. These workers also tend to skew young, lack a college degree and have an annual household income below $30,000.
— Alison McCarthy
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