Today's economy is more volatile than it has been in years – mortgage rates are at 20-year highs, student loan payments are re-starting this month, and energy and oil prices are on the rise due to geopolitical conflicts. It makes sense that amid these challenges, workers overwhelmingly prioritize flexible, scalable work to combat inflation and provide supplementary income for themselves and their families.
Two recent surveys highlight the economic anxiety so many feel today – and should be considered by policymakers who want to undermine independent work, including opportunities enabled by app-based platforms.
First, more than 75% of Americans fear the worst of inflation is still ahead and expect prices to continue rising, according to Harris Insight. With most saying that inflation has negatively impacted their ability to afford their monthly budget, this data illustrates how financial concerns are a real-life issue for many Americans.
During kitchen table conversations, Americans are adjusting their spending and financial plans, Harris’ survey also reports. For more than 50% of the public – and 60% of BIPOC individuals – that means things like picking up extra hours or earning with app-based platforms. Notably, a Flex survey released this year showed that 85% of app-based earners nationwide say that their earnings have helped them deal with inflation-based rising costs.
Second, 60% of respondents currently working as part of the gig economy began doing so to earn income, according to TransUnion’s U.S. Gig Economy Report. In particular, millennials – the largest generational group in this country and a cohort with “exceptional levels of election turnout” – cited how gig work helps supplement their income (50%) and also save for big purchases (51%).
As the report notes, “Participation as an earner in the gig economy is almost becoming a rite of passage for many adults – something they did that one time when they needed a little extra cash or wanted to save up extra money for a big purchase. Some may have just used gig work as a means to an end, while others found gig work a reliable source of income.”
App-based platforms provide an opportunity to earn income quickly and flexibly on one’s own terms. That’s why over 23 million Americans choose this work. With over nine million openings, there are plenty of traditional jobs available for those who want them. Not everyone wants or can work a full-time, Monday-Friday job due to personal circumstances – whether that be working as a full-time caretaker, an individual with disabilities, a retiree, or anyone who wants or needs flexibility of work. Or for those who do have full-time jobs, they may simply want the opportunity to supplement their income on their own schedule.
Policymakers should exercise caution in pursuing any efforts that would undercut the availability of independent work. The dignity, financial security, and economic agency of so many Americans, particularly in today’s economy, demand nothing less.