The so-called ‘gig’ economy is a new and relatively unexplored area of work. For many it is still a rather imprecise term that is little understood. While short-term, flexible and independent work are not new to the economy, it is the digital revolution of recent years – characterised by the use of online applications and digital platforms – that has provided a virtual marketplace for on-demand peer-to-peer buying and selling of short-term, flexible work.

However, little empirical research has been conducted into this area which means that its full scale is not understood and little is known about the characteristics of the individuals engaged in the gig economy. In light of this, BEIS commissioned NatCen to conduct a robust quantitative exploration of the gig economy. For this research the ‘gig economy’ has been defined as “involving exchange of labour for money between individuals or companies via digital platforms that actively facilitate matching between providers and customers, on a short-term and payment by task basis.”

The research had three key aims:

  • To develop a working definition of the gig economy;
  • To provide a robust estimate of the number of individuals who have found work via the gig economy; and
  • To provide detailed information on the characteristics of those who work in the gig economy.
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