November 17, 2016

Gig Work, Online Selling and Home Sharing

4. Public attitudes towards online gig work

While a relatively small share of Americans engage in technology-mediated “gig work,” a substantially larger share has utilized these services as consumers. And in addition to asking about workers’ experiences using online platforms to perform tasks or services for others, Pew Research Center asked a series of questions of the broader public in order to gauge their views about these new modes of work (note: these findings were taken from a separate survey conducted in late 2015, see the Methodology section of this report for more details). Overall, their attitudes reflect a mixture of positive and negative views, along with a healthy dose of uncertainty about the relative merits of gig work.

Americans’ opinions about these jobs are quite positive in some respects. Most prominently, 68% of Americans think they are good for people who want flexible schedules, while just 6% do not think this is the case. They are also more likely to agree than disagree – albeit by a lesser margin – that these jobs are good options for older adults who don’t want to work full time anymore or that they are good entry-level jobs for people who are just entering the workforce.

Yet even as they generally approve of the flexibility that these jobs offer to workers, Americans are less enthusiastic about other aspects of digitally enabled gig work. Just 16% of Americans feel that these jobs are the type of work people can build careers out of (41% think they are not). Similarly, 23% worry that these jobs let companies take advantage of workers (32% think that this is not the case), while 21% think that they place too much financial burden on workers (29% disagree).

And reflecting the fact that a large number of Americans are simply unfamiliar with many of these services, a substantial share of the public is simply unsure how to feel about the jobs they create. One-quarter to one-half of the public is not sure how these jobs stack up on each of the six different attributes examined in this survey.

In general, those with the greatest amount of personal exposure to shared and on-demand services tend to have more positive views about the merits of the jobs these services create. Americans who have personally used six or more shared and on-demand services (out of a total of 11 measured in the survey) are significantly more likely than those who have used five or fewer services to feel that gig economy jobs are good for those who want flexible schedules, good for older adults, and good for workers who are just entering the job force. But even this group of “super users” has some hesitation about the ultimate impact of these jobs: roughly one-in-three think that these jobs let companies take advantage of workers (31%), while 26% think that they place too much financial burden on workers and just 25% think that these are the kind of jobs people can build careers out of.