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The "Gig Economy" Is A Mystery to Most

May 24th, 2017
freelancerEnter the phrase "gig economy" into Google and you get almost half a million results. And many of those references are new just in the last two and a-half years.

Since 2014, searches for "gig economy" have taken off. So it's surprising that almost 75% of the American public haven't heard of the gig economy, and 29% can't explain what it means. Yet, that's the finding of a survey of 2,067 Americans by the Harris Poll for the American Staffing Association.

When told it means "various forms of small-project, freelance assignments typically facilitated by an internet platform or app," 20% of the participants said they've done that kind of work, very probably many of them for Uber or Lyft. But without giving them that definition -- letting them come up with their own ideas, perhaps thinking of gig as "side job," moonlighting, or freelance -- 85% said they've done "gig" work at some time in their life.

That concept of gig work seems to be borne out by the 78% who see the gig economy as a new way to describe the kind of nontraditional work arrangements that have been around a long time.

Will gig work take over as the predominate form of employment in the next 20 years? "No," said 53% of the respondents, a percentage that suggests there's some uncertainty out there about what the future of work will look like in 2037.

Image: Stuart Miles /

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