New figures have shown the freelance economy has grown by 22% to a total of $1.2 trillion in the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the nature of work arrangements.
The figures come from Upwork, a platform designed to connect freelancers with potential employment opportunities, and says that freelance workers are now adding more than $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy.
This is 22% larger than just one year ago, when Upwork conducted a 2019 study, suggesting the pandemic has transformed work arrangements massively in a short span of time; an increase of 2 million freelancers over 2019 figures.
In total, 59 million US citizens were found to have freelanced at least once in the previous twelve-months. Adam Ozimek, lead economist and author of the report notes in his introduction that “even in the midst of this uncertainty, the percent freelancing at any point over the last year increased… contributing nearly $1.2 trillion to the economy, freelancing remains a significant part of the economy and an important component for adapting to difficult economic times.”
The firm says that in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession, “the freelance workforce remains an essential pillar of the U.S. economy,” while adding that this trend is set to continue well into the future.
Their research suggests that 36% of the workforce in the U.S. is now operating on a freelance basis, with Upwork saying a mix of younger professionals entering the workforce is looking for flexible working arrangements over traditional employment.
Upwork says that the number of freelancers operating full-time has also increased by 8% over last year.
According to the results of the survey, “of those who quit their full-time job in order to freelance, 75% say they earn the same or more in pay than when they had a traditional employer.”
In terms of industry-specific numbers, Upwork says that 50% of freelancers were moving to the areas of marketing, IT, computer programming and business consultancy work, which was up from 45% last year. The firm says that “58% of non-freelancers who are new to remote work due to the pandemic are now considering freelancing in the future.”
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Hayden Brown, President and CEO of Upwork has said in a statement that “it’s no surprise that freelancing is on the rise- especially now that we have fully disentangled ‘where’ we work from [and] ‘what’ we work on.”
“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.”
Brown continued to explain that “at the same time, companies are finding that these professionals can quickly inject new skills and capabilities into an organisation and strategically flex capacity up and down along with changes in demand and workloads. We expect this trend to continue as companies increasingly rely on freelancers as essential contributors to their own operations.”
Chief economist Adam Ozimek concluded by saying that “the changing dynamics to the workforce that has occurred during the crisis demonstrate the value that freelancing provides to both businesses and workers.”