Young People Fueling a Pandemic Rise in Freelancing, Report Says

Gen Z may have the highest share of freelancers because of the tough job market for young workers right now.

Gen Z may have the highest share of freelancers because of the tough job market for young workers right now. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A survey of American workers revealed that young people between ages 18 to 22 are increasingly picking up freelancing.

Coronavirus has undoubtedly shifted the job landscape in America since it became widespread in March. Amid the layoffs, furloughs, and remote work forced by the pandemic, millions more people are now freelancing, according to a new report from Edelman Intelligence, a market research firm.

In the survey commissioned by Upwork, a freelancing platform, 6,000 U.S. workers were asked about their freelance habits from June 2019 to July 2020. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they had freelanced over that year. When applied to the U.S. workforce as a whole, that represents 59 million workers, an increase of two million freelancers over last year.

Many of the freelancers who started work once the pandemic hit were young, between the ages of 18 and 22. Half of Gen Z workers surveyed said they freelanced in the past year, with more than a third of that group starting since the onset of Covid-19. Most of these young workers are freelancing part time and 90% said they were likely to continue after the pandemic is over. 

In comparison, 44% of millennials said they freelanced, along with 30% of Gen Xers and 26% of Baby Boomers.

Gen Z may have the highest share of freelancers because of the tough job market for young workers right now. Unemployment among people aged 16 to 19 rose at nearly double the rate for the general population between February and April. Younger workers were more likely to be laid off at the beginning of the pandemic and were disproportionately represented in service industries that were heavily disrupted by Covid-19 containment measures. Many recent college graduates are relying on unemployment benefits to stay afloat.

In recent years, reports suggested that just 1% of American workers relied full time on gig economy jobs sourced through driving companies like Uber and Lyft, freelancing sites like Upwork, and handyman-for-hire sites like TaskRabbit. One 2019 study said that “despite the ubiquity of Uber and Lyft drivers in our major cities, the gig economy does not currently hold the key to the future of work.” Independent contractors, a term that encompasses more workers than just gig workers, occupied 11% of jobs. 

The new report seems to indicate that more people are turning to full-time freelancing work. Thirty-six percent of freelancers are full time now, compared to 28% last year. In the past 12 months, freelancers contributed $1.2 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy in annual earnings, representing a 22% increase since 2019.

Along with younger workers shifting their focus to freelancing during the pandemic, there was also an increase in freelancing by highly-skilled professionals who provide services like computer programming, graphic design, and marketing consulting. Of those who started freelancing during the pandemic, 54% said they did so due to financial necessity and 75% said they did so to have greater financial stability during the recession. 

At a time many schools and daycares are still closed physically, leaving working parents to balance childcare, virtual schooling, and their jobs, many of the freelancers also said they were drawn to the work by the flexibility. Forty-eight percent of freelancers reported being caregivers, surpassing those in traditional work and the American workforce over all. 

Hayden Brown, President and CEO of Upwork said in a statement that the widespread adoption of remote work for office jobs during the pandemic has fueled more interest in freelancing. 

“It’s no surprise that freelancing is on the rise, especially now that we have fully disentangled ‘where’ we work from ‘what’ we work on,” Brown said. “Amid all of the uncertainty brought about by Covid-19, the data shows that independent professionals are benefiting from income diversification, schedule flexibility, and increased productivity.”

She also said that companies are increasingly turning to freelancers to fill project needs. “We expect this trend to continue as companies increasingly rely on freelancers as essential contributors to their own operations,” she said.

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
St. Louis Uses Interactive Kiosks as a Critical COVID-19 Communications Platform
St. Louis, MO, USA
Erie County, PA offers all local restaurants free digital tools to plan for safe COVID reopening
Erie County, PA, USA
MN Water District and High School Collaborate on Stormwater and Education
Forest Lake, MN, USA

NEXT STORY: Momentum for Basic Income Builds as Pandemic Drags On

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.