Millennials and Gen X workers are overwhelmingly opting for standard permanent jobs in a business directed by an employer. Only 1.0 percent of young workers are engaged in electronically mediated, or gig, work.
This is the main finding of Young Workers in Nonstandard Work Arrangements, 2005 – 2017, published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). More specifically, a majority of young workers, ages 21–25, with and without a college degree, are in standard work arrangements and are more likely to hold such jobs compared to the workforce as a whole.
The much-hyped growth of the gig economy cannot be found in the 2017 survey of nonstandard work arrangements.
Policymakers are paying attention to nonstandard employment relations — that is, temporary help agency and contract company employment, and employment as an on-call worker or day laborer — as well as independent contractors because of the rise in popularity of a subset of independent contractors, the gig worker. As this report clarifies, gig work is a type of independent contractor whose work is mediated by electronic platforms such as Uber, GrubHub, or TaskRabbit.
With or without a college degree, the share of young workers in nonstandard work arrangements has remained small, even declining slightly in most nonstandard categories between 2005 and 2017. Young workers as a share of independent contractors, a category that includes gig economy workers, declined from 2.6 to 2.1 for college graduates and from 3.1 to 2.7 for noncollege graduates.
“Low wages, lack of benefits, and less than full-time hours are problems faced by all workers without a college degree, but especially young workers without a college degree,” said Aaron Medlin, the report’s co-author. “These are the labor market policy issues that should be on the table.”
“Data just recently made available for the first time in 12 years allowed us to examine how young workers in contingent and nonstandard work arrangements have changed over the last two-plus decades,” said Hye Jin Rho, co-author of this report as well as an earlier analysis on nonstandard work arrangements and older Americans.