Sunday 20 January 2019

Freelancing forges ahead in US: numbers up 7pc as younger workers boost work-life balance

THE BIG PICTURE

Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

More than one-third of the United States workforce freelanced last year, with the number of freelancers growing 7pc in five years.

Currently, 35pc - or 56.7 million people - in the US are engaged in freelance work, according to a study from global freelancing website Upwork and the Freelancers Union.

In contrast, the non-freelance US workforce grew just 2pc in the same period.

When asked whether they started freelancing more by choice or necessity, 61pc of the 6,000-plus freelancers surveyed said by choice - up eight percentage points since 2014.

The increase in the number of people engaging in this type of work is driven by technology advancements that make it easier for people to find work.

Overall, the number of freelancers who found work online increased by over a fifth in five years to 64pc.

Meanwhile, the percentage of work they obtained online increased for 67pc of freelancers last year.

In addition, younger generations are freelancing more than any other generation in the workforce.

Describing the role played by freelancers in the economy as "critical", Stephane Kasriel, president and CEO of Upwork, said that despite the economic boom - which has created a "record number of full-time, 9-to-5 job openings" - Americans are increasingly choosing to freelance.

"At the same time, technology is freeing people from the archaic time and place work constraints that are no longer necessary for today's mostly knowledge-based work," Mr Kasriel said.

One area of concern for freelancers is trying to manage everything. On the other hand, however, they were found to have a better work-life balance.

"This year's results reveal that most workers prioritise lifestyle over earnings, but freelancers are much more likely to actually attain the life they want," Mr Kasriel added.

In terms of how they define themselves, the majority (31pc) classified themselves as "diversified", while the same number said they were "independent" workers.

The remainder are made up of temporary workers, moonlighters, and freelance business owners.

In terms of barriers to entry into the sector, costs in accessing training was a concern for one in two people, particularly because freelancers are more likely to have to pay for training themselves.

Despite this, freelancers are proactive in updating their skills as the job market evolves, with seven in 10 full-time freelancers having participated in skills training in the past six months, compared to 49pc of full-time non-freelancers.

Specifically, freelancers are seeking training to enhance their skills in areas that affect them most: technology, networking and business management.

Irish Independent

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