Gig Economy Statistics UK

The latest facts and figures behind the UK's fast-growing gig economy
 
Andrew Fennell photo Andrew Fennell | Updated June 2022

From Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders to digital freelancers and beyond, the gig economy is vast, and it is growing in the UK every year.

We’ve analysed every study, research paper, and analysis on this topic to bring you the most relevant UK gig economy statistics and facts you need to truly understand this environment.

 

 

Key statistics on the UK gig economy:

  • 1 in 6 adults in the UK currently work a gig job at least once a week.
  • Gig workers contribute £20bn to the UK economy, the same as the aerospace industry.
  • Almost half (48%) of gig workers in the UK also have a full-time job.
  • Women earn an average of 10% less than men in the gig economy.
  • For most, 71.5%, gig work makes up less than half of their income.
  • 7.25 million people are expected to work in the gig economy by the end of 2022.
  • A third of young people (18-34) returning to work post-pandemic did so into the gig economy.

 

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is a large and growing section of the working population where short-term flexible workers are paid on the completion of tasks (known as gigs) instead of being paid for the amount of time that they work. For example, a delivery rider working in the gig economy will not be paid an hourly wage for the duration of their shift – instead, they will be paid a fixed fee for every delivery they complete.

Benefits include the flexibility of workers being able to choose when and how they work, plus the ability to increase earnings with good performance.

Common gig economy workers include taxi drivers, dog walkers and cleaners, but the gig economy also extends to qualified professionals, specialising in copywriting, teaching, translating, proofreading, solving IT problems, or designing games to name but a few examples.

 

“In the gig economy workers are paid for completion of tasks, instead of being paid for their time”

 

The gig economy in the United Kingdom is very diversified, but in summary it includes the following types of jobs:

  • Drivers transporting customers in cars via ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.
  • Cyclists delivering takeaway meals to households via delivery apps such as Deliveroo and JustEat.
  • Digital freelancers providing services like copywriting, graphic design and web development through freelance marketplace sites like Fiverr and PeoplePerHour.
  • Manual workers providing labour to individuals or businesses on construction jobs.

 

The most common setups for people providing these gigs are :

  • Casual, part-time and full-time workers who decide when they work for their chosen companies or apps.
  • Persons providing services directly to customers, who are either freelancers or one-person businesses.
  • People performing gigs full-time and those doing it in their spare time to supplement their income [1].

 

How big is the gig economy in the UK?

Latest official figures from think tanks and industry bodies state that there was an estimated 6.07 million people working regularly (at least once a week) in the gig economy in 2021, amounting to approximately 14.7% of the working population. [22]

Since data collection began in 2016, studies show that around 9.33 million people have performed gig economy work at some point, however, this is not in a regular manner, and could include those who worked just once to try it out.

Historic data shows that this number sat at 4.7 million people in 2019, more than double the size of 2.4 million from 2016.

 

“An estimated 7.25 million people will be working in the gig economy by the end of 2022”

 

Growth of the UK gig economy

If the gig economy, and UK employment figures, continued at this sustained level of growth, estimations, based on Government figures, would put 7.25 million people in gig work in 2022.

 

Growth of gig economy UK

 

*Based on historic population and 2022 demographic projection figures from the Office for National Statistics. The above graphic focuses on those that would work ‘regularly’ in the economy, not those who have ever performed gig work.

Using Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), some calculations put the UK’s gig economy at 14.86 million workers by 2026. [21]

 

How much do gig workers contribute to the economy?

Gig-based freelancers contribute approximately £20 billion to the British economy each year. [7] This is the same amount that the Aerospace industry contributes.

Reports into gig economy statistics estimate that £3.2 billion (16%) of this British economic contribution is made of earnings from Uber drivers [18] while one study by Capital Economics believes Deliveroo will contribute £1.5 billion to the UK economy. [19]

Some estimates push this economic contribution further, stating the spiralling growth of the gig economy in the UK could explode to a £63.25 billion contribution to the UK economy by 2026, using CAGR.[21].

 

Gig economy platforms in the UK

In regards to the specific platforms used, there is a huge range of options for gig workers in the UK but the most popular is Uber, with over 90,000 drivers who work for the company as of the start of 2022. [20]

Deliveroo, often described as ‘the Netflix of food delivery’ is expanding rapidly in the UK, further boosted by nationwide pandemic lockdowns, total transactions on the app rose 64.3% in 2020.[15] In response, the company announced plans to hire additional 50,000 drivers.

 

UK gig economy platforms

 

PeoplePerHour is another popular gig platform used by 12% of gig economy workforce [1] which allows freelancer to secure gig work for a range of online activities, such as graphic design, copywriting and marketing.

Other gig work platforms used in the UK by order of popularity are: [1]

  • Fiverr (10%)
  • Upwork (9%)
  • TaskRabbit (8%)
  • AmazonFlex (8%)

 

Gig work: Primary income vs side hustles

The average gig worker is not in this full-time, it’s a way to supplement their income. For over two‐thirds of gig workers (71.5%) revenue generated from gigs represents less than a half of their earnings. [2]

 

“48% of gig workers in the UK also have a full-time job”

 

Only 9.4% of gig workers rely on this type of work as their only source of income, while for  28.5% it represents at least half of their earnings [2]

 

Who relies on gig work for income

 

Nearly half (48.1%) of all gig workers in the UK are in full-time employment, 12.4% work part-time, 10.7% are self-employed and 11.3% are students. [2]

Amongst intensive gigs providers (those who do gigs  at least once a week), the figures are similar with 52.8% being employed full-time, 12.8% part-time, 9.3% self-employed, 3.5% full-time parents, 3.2% retired and 11.4% students [2]

Of those gaining at least half of their income from gig work, 51.9% are in full-time employment and 14% in part-time.[2]

 

Demographics: Who works in the gig economy?

Men are more likely to undertake gig economy jobs than women. An estimated 16.5% of the UK’s male population are involved in the gig economy versus 14.1% of British women. Among all gig workers women make up around 46.5% [2].

Gig workers can be found in all age groups, but it is fair to say the gig economy is driven by young people. Those aged 16-24 make 31.5% of the workforce, followed by 25-34 years old (16.4%). [2]

Participation in gig activities clearly declines with the age. Among 45-54 years old, only 13.4% do some sort of gig [2]. Such a pattern may not be so surprising, as many gigs require good health and condition – climbing hundreds of stairs delivering parcels, or cycling miles delivering food can be physically demanding.

 

UK gig economy demographics

 

Where are gig workers located in the UK?

Gig workers are dispersed all over the country, but London is the epicentre of the gig economy. Over one fifth (21%) of  the capital’s working age population perform gigs regularly [2].

 

Gig workers location UK

Interestingly, those involved in the gig economy are more likely than the population as a whole to rent their accommodation (37% vs. 28%) or live with parents, family or friends either rent-free or paying some rent (17% vs. 11%) [1]

 

What type of work do gig workers do in the UK?

Gig workers perform a variety of tasks, but online office work is the most popular, followed by providing services in other people’s homes. Next, in order of importance, is driving and delivery work, and then running errands [2].

The following is a breakdown of some of the tasks gig workers do in the UK and what percentage workers in the gig economy undertake these regularly.

 

Type of gig economy work in UK

Graphic note: The sum of all types of work as shown in the graphic will add up to more than 100% as gig workers can work more than one type/activity, i.e a taxi driver who also does freelance graphic design.

 

“In the UK gig economy, online work is done more than takeaway food or taxi driving”

 

Gig work type over time

As the number of people doing gig work has exploded, some studies have also tracked how the type of gig work has changed from 2016.[22] The below data shows the percentage of the working population estimated to have taken part in gig work types in 2021.

Type of gig work201620192021Estimated UK workers (2021)*2016-2021 % Change
Deliveries/Driving1.90%6.10%8.90%3,674,8997.00%
Household services3.20%6.50%7.90%3,261,9894.70%
Errand running2.30%3.80%6.20%2,560,0423.90%
Online work4.90%9.60%11.90%4,913,6297.00%

*Based on 2021 working population figures (defined as people aged 15-64)
Data note: One person can be part of multiple gig work types which helps to explain the large numbers of total workers.

We can see that deliveries/driving, such as Deliveroo or Uber, and online work, have both grown the most by 7% from 2016 to 2021. Online gig work could consist of a huge variety of work including virtual administration support, digital marketing, or illustrations and design to provide but a few examples.

The trend is clear, every year, the gig economy is growing with those out delivering physical goods, and those providing online services leading the charge.

 

How often do Brits work in the gig economy?

Statistics show that the rate of gig work for those in the economy varies greatly. Over half (55%) of gig workers perform tasks at least once a month, while 12% deliver 2-3 times a week, 9% deliver gigs every single day.[1] Due to the nature of the gig economy, many people may not have an average level of work each week.

 

Do people stay in the gig economy?

Generally, the gig economy has a trend, by design, that sees people work infrequently. A disparity can be seen when looking at recent industry reports where 14.7% of the UK working population was working at least once a week in the gig economy in 2021, but 22.6% were working less frequently than this or had stopped gig work altogether.

It is challenging to track gig economy workers as individuals could perform gig work even just a few times, and then decide not to continue it, but they would contribute to statistics of those working less frequently than a week. Future studies may shed light on the longevity of gig work in the UK.

 

How long have people worked in the UK gig economy?

Other studies however have looked at gig workers and statistics on how long they have been working in the industry. The chart below reviews this data, but shows that over half (51.5%) have worked between 3-12 months, indicating it’s attracting fresh workers, with the minority (22.6%) having worked for 3 years or more.

 

Length of time people work in gig economy

 

Gender pay gap in the gig economy

According to one source, female gig workers make on average £80 a week less than their male counterparts. Such disparity could be due to a lack of confidence to ask for more or a result of the pressure from a gig provider [3]. Another study from Columbia University states that women gig workers’ hourly earnings were 10% lower than men’s [4].

 

“Women earn an average of 10% less than men in the gig economy”

 

Taking an average earning of £29,495, which is the average salary of Uber drivers, women in the same position are likely to earn £2,949 less a year than men by typical gig economy standards. With Deliveroo riders earning an average of £10/hour, women would also earn a pound less every hour with a 10% gap.

While such a pay disparity is obviously hugely detrimental to many, it is 8.05% less than the average gender pay gap in the UK outside of the gig economy (18.05%).

In Australia, one study found that women working in gig economy roles were earning between 10% and 37% less than their male counterparts. Per hour, men were earning an average of $2.67 more than women for doing the same work. However, around 40% of the gig workers in the study said they didn’t know what their hourly rate was. [23]

 

COVID-19 impact on the gig economy

Approximately 1.37 million workers were added to the UK gig economy from 2019 to the end of 2021, and estimates place another 1.18 million workers by the end of 2022. The pandemic saw deliveries and online gig work increase by 7%. With food deliveries and the digitisation of work, and work-from-home, seeing a boom due to the pandemic, such a shift was to be expected.

UberEats and Deliveroo, for example, exceeded targets during the pandemic, experiencing a record-high growth in demand [5] due to the loss of in-person hospitality.

After the first UK lockdown, Deliveroo signed up 11,500 new restaurants and announced recruitment plans for 15,000 additional drivers. [9]

 

“In the middle of the pandemic (August 2020), 28% of delivery drivers reported having more work than usual”

 

Other types of gig economy work, such as taxi rides, were heavily impacted. Uber recorded a 73% drop in the number of rides when compared with the same period last year before the pandemic had started [5]. This would mean an average pay loss of £21,531 for each Uber driver.

Culturally, there was an increase in interest in the gig economy due to the pandemic. 92% of respondents in a recent survey by the jobs board Monster said they thought the pandemic presented the perfect opportunity to look into the gig economy. Just over half of people (57%) said gig work would be essential while they are searching for jobs due to the pandemic.

 

Young people joining the gig economy

A recent study found that young people in the UK who lost their jobs during the pandemic have been returning to work in gig economy roles. The statistics show that people aged 18-34 who were employed before the pandemic were more likely to have returned to less stable, zero-hour or agency work. A third (33%) of young people returning to work were now in these roles, compared to 12% who had stayed employed during COVID-19. [24]

 

Pros and cons of the UK gig economy

A fair question when researching the UK gig economy is whether the workers actually enjoy it, or benefit from the current system.

One major study by the UK government [1] indicates that more than half (53%) of those involved in the British gig economy are either very or fairly satisfied with their experience of providing services on websites and apps.

 

“74% of gig workers who work full-time are satisfied with their employment situation”

 

Independence and flexibility that the work offers are the main sources of job satisfaction. Over half of all gig economy providers are pleased with these two aspects of their work (58 and 56% respectively).

Work-related benefits and level of income are the main reasons of worry among gig workers however, with one in four (25%) very or fairly unhappy with those aspects of their work.

Satisfaction levels are high (74%) in those who see their gig work income as ‘significant’, but for those doing tasks more casually, it’s lower, at 48%.

From the study, these were the main pros and cons highlighted by UK gig workers, and how many workers agreed:

 

Pros Cons
Independence (58%) Income levels (25%)
Flexibility (56%) Work benefits (25%)
Number of hours available (46%) Career development opportunities (23%)
Cost of providing services (38%) Irregular workload (18%)

Data note: The study also allowed ‘Don’t know’ or ‘Neither’ as an option for gig workers when discussing how they felt above the above issues. 

 

There were also slight differences in the overall satisfaction of gig workers based on their gig activity. Those who provided courier services reported a 69% satisfaction rate, those who did taxi work stated 68% satisfaction, while food delivery reported a 65% satisfaction rate.

 

Employability for gig workers

Some reports discuss that it is challenging for gig workers to gain employment after they leave the economy as it is challenging to up-skill. We recommend gig workers consider the following transferable skills when looking at becoming more employable and how to write a CV:

  • Finance management – Gig workers need to manage their finances and can get quite complex for those with multiple freelance clients – this can be a big selling point in a CV.
  • Customer service – Working directly with the public, like in Uber or Deliveroo, typically means you’ll have good experience on managing the public, in both positive and negative experiences
  • Verbal communication – In the same manner, you need to have good communication speaking with customers, or having meetings with clients.
  • Flexibility – Nothing is more flexible than the gig economy, you can show how you were prepared to take on more hours during peak times to work harder and earn more during that time.
  • Adaptability – Gig work often requires you to think on your feet and pick-up new skills quickly. Discuss how you grew your skill set through this period of employment.

There are many valuable workplace skills earned in gig work activities and people should endeavour to sell them effectively in their CV when entering the mainstream.

 

Analysis: Parents could benefit from Uber gig work

As part of our research into the UK gig economy we also looked at how much Uber drivers earn and how this compares to other jobs, particularly when childcare costs were considered.

The following analysis accounts for income tax, national insurance contributions, commuting, petrol, and childcare to see how many Uber driving hours a working parent would need to do to match the salary of some of the most popular jobs in the country. The full methodology is available at the end of this report.

 

Rank Job Average Salary Take Home Pay
(less childcare, commute, taxes)
Weekly Uber Hours Needed
(inc. insurance, license, petrol, taxes, maintenance)
Weekly Hours Saved
1 Customer Service Advisor £19,000 £4,306 18.0 19.5
2 Teaching Assistant £21,785 £6,200 20.9 16.6
3 Bus Driver £22,135 £6,438 21.3 16.2
4 Postal Worker £22,500 £6,686 21.6 15.9
5 Delivery Driver £24,375 £7,961 23.6 13.9
6 Office Manager £26,750 £9,552 26.0 11.5
7 Social Worker £27,000 £9,746 26.3 11.2
8 Chef £29,000 £11,106 28.4 9.1
9 Police Officer £29,790 £11,621 29.2 8.3
10 Teacher (Primary) £31,000 £12,466 30.5 7.0
11 Accountant £31,729 £12,940 31.2 6.3
12 Store Manager £32,485 £13,476 32.0 5.5
13 Events Manager £32,820 £13,704 32.3 5.2
14 Recruiter £32,981 £13,791 32.5 5.0
15 Nurse £33,384 £14,133 33.0 4.5
16 Electrician £33,495 £14,163 33.0 4.5
17 Midwife £36,000 £15,844 35.6 1.9
18 Marketing Manager £37,500 £16,886 37.2 0.3
19 Firefighter £37,573 £16,914 37.2 0.3
20 Paramedic £38,266 £17,385 38.0 -0.5

 

Uber drivers can make good money and the flexibility of the work may mean some working parents could benefit from such gig work. Of course, this is only one small study into this space and each parent’s situation will be different, but it does indicate that gig work can be feasible full-time.

 

2021 UK law changes to gig economy

The lack of legislation supporting gig workers has been a growing problem. Typically, gig workers are not provided with sick pay, holiday entitlement, and other benefits. Such a situation can have dramatic consequences, when a worker has an accident, or gets seriously sick.

As the number of people joining the gig economy is growing, the public interest in legislative support has been building up.

In 2021, Uber decided to give all its UK drivers employee status, with all its benefits including a minimum wage, pension scheme, and holiday pay, after losing a battle in the Supreme Court [12]. This landmark decision is a clear warning to all other gig platforms: the “misclassification” of their workforce will not be tolerated any longer: if gig workers have the same duties as regular employees, they should be treated as such.

 

The future of the UK gig economy

The UK gig economy is here to stay. One study found that 18% of Human Resources Directors in the UK think gig workers will make up 75% or more of their workforce over the next five years. [12]

 

“It seems inevitable that there will continue to be significant growth of the gig economy in the coming years”

 

Some experts predict that more companies will follow Uber and start offering their gig workers permanent contracts, or at least some sort of benefits, like sick pay and holidays. The courier company Hermes, for example, agreed to offer drivers guaranteed minimum wages and holiday pay following a case brought by the unions. [17]

We also spoke to Julia Kermode, founder of IWORK, which champions and protects the UK’s independent workforce. Julia had this to say on the future of the gig economy in the UK:

 

“Roles that were once misjudged or looked down on are now respected. The importance of gig work is now finally starting to be recognised, with workers earning themselves the accolade of being key workers who are critical to the UK’s pandemic response.”

“There is nothing wrong with gig work; when done well it brings genuine choice to individuals in how, where and when they work, and it enables businesses to be agile which is much needed for our economic recovery.  Of course it is essential to get legalities around employment status right, which is perfectly possible, and providing the business treats workers properly without exploitation then it’s a win-win for all concerned.”

 

Imagery

Graphics and imagery on this page may be freely used on another site with attribution to StandOut CV in addition to linking back to this page.

 

Sources:

[1] Department for Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy, The Characteristics of Those in The Gig Economy, Final Report, February 2018,  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/687553/The_characteristics_of_those_in_the_gig_economy.pdf

[2] TUC, University of Hertfordshire, Platform Work in the UK 2016-2019, Statistical Services and Consultancy Unit (SSCU), University of Hertfordshire and Hertfordshire Business School (HBS), accessed at: https://www.feps-europe.eu/attachments/publications/platform%20work%20in%20the%20uk%202016-2019%20v3-converted.pdf

[3] Moore J., The gig economy is not just exploitative, it’s also sexist – here’s how, Independent, published on 18 May 2019, accessed at: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/gig-economy-gender-pay-gap-deliveroo-uber-tuc-a8919641.html

[4] Hamill J., A ‘gender pay gap’ exists in anonymous online gig economy marketplaces, published on 5 Mar 2020, https://metro.co.uk/2020/03/05/gender-pay-gap-exists-anonymous-online-gig-economy-marketplaces-12352835/?ito=cbshare

[5] Economic Observatory, Update: How is the coronavirus crisis affecting gig economy workers?, published 2 March 2021, accessed at: https://www.economicsobservatory.com/update-how-is-the-coronavirus-crisis-affecting-gig-economy-workers

[6] Centre for Economic Performance, Covid-19 and the self-employed: Six months into the crisis, Covid-19 Analysis Series, November 2020, https://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/cepcovid-19-012.pdf

[7] Centre for Research and Self-Employment, The Freelance Project and Gig Economies of the 21st Century, June 2019, http://crse.co.uk/research/freelance-project-and-gig-economies-21st-century

[8] University of Hertfordshire, Crowd Working Survey, February 2016, http://englishbulletin.adapt.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/crowd-working-surveypdf1.pdf

[9] Mirror, Deliveroo is looking for 15,000 new riders and drivers as demand surges, https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/breaking-deliveroo-looking-15000-new-22717983

[10] Deutsche Welle, Uber drivers to get workers’ rights in the UK, https://tinyurl.com/3z9duhz2

[11] Deliveroo, 15,000 NEW RIDERS SET TO JOIN DELIVEROO, https://uk.deliveroo.news/news/deliveroo-riders-covid-19.html

[12] AON, Financial security or greater control?, March 2020, https://img.response.aonunited.com/Web/AonUnited/%7B1c18275a-fdd7-4b48-a3ed-d55c57a536da%7D_gig_economy_report.pdf

[13] The Herald, Uber loses court battle as Supreme Court rules drivers are workers, https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/19102997.uber-loses-court-battle-supreme-court-rules-drivers-workers/

[14] Guardian Uber’s UK supreme court defeat should mean big changes to the gig economy, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/27/ubers-uk-supreme-court-defeat-should-mean-big-changes-to-the-gig-economy

[15] Hargraves Landsdown, Deliveroo IPO – what you need to know, and our take, https://www.hl.co.uk/news/articles/deliveroo-ipo-what-you-need-to-know

[16] Monster, The gig economy: strategies for recruiting temporary workers, https://hiring.monster.com/employer-resources/recruiting-strategies/talent-acquisition/the-gig-economy-in-2021-predictions-and-strategies-for-recruiting-temporary-workers/

[17] Guardian, Gig economy in Britain doubles, accounting for 4.7 million workers, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jun/28/gig-economy-in-britain-doubles-accounting-for-47-million-workers

[18] Uber: The Impact of Uber in the UK https://www.uber.com/en-GB/newsroom/the-impact-of-uber-in-the-uk/

[19] Deliveroo, Deliveroo will create 70,000 jobs https://uk.deliveroo.news/news/creating-restaurant-jobs.html

[20] Uber plans to sign up 20,000 more drivers in UK as lockdown easing boosts trips https://news.sky.com/story/uber-plans-to-sign-up-20-000-more-drivers-as-lockdown-easing-boosts-trips-12290033

[21] UK Gig Economy 2021, Ask Wonder https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VY2Gz6f_9tgcYvhH1nhDE7CiTAX2uozMSUakPwQ3Qtc/edit

[22] Gig Economy Workforce in England and Wales https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/gig-economy-workforce-england-and-wales-has-almost-tripled-last-five-years-new-tuc-research

[23] Gig Economy Gender Pay Gap – https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/mar/28/report-into-the-gig-economy-finds-women-are-earning-37-less-than-men

[24] Young People Returning to Work in the Gig Economy – https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/jan/31/young-people-lost-jobs-pandemic-uk-returning-insecure-work-resolution-foundation

 

Analysis Methodology

Data was analysed based on Uber drivers earning an average of £15/hour, and paying £100 on petrol each week (the average for UK taxi drivers), with a maintenance cost of £75 per month. Average license fees were taken from 6 of the 10 biggest cities in the UK who list their license fees explicitly on their website. An average taxi insurance cost of £1,550 a year was also taken into account.

We compared this against the average take-home salary of various jobs when factoring in other deductibles, these included: average childcare costs, after school clubs, and commuter costs. Maintenance fees for commuting were not factored in for the alternative jobs.

National insurance and income tax was taken into account for both uber drivers salaries and the top 20 jobs analysed.

The methodology relies on the notion that the parent can work flexibly as an Uber driver when their child may not require childcare: when another parent/guardian is present or during school hours for example.

Average salaries were taken from a range of jobs boards for each role. These jobs boards analyse the average salaries of thousands of jobs posted to dictate an average salary.

Clean Air Zones (CAZ) and equivalents were not factored in as data does not exist for the number of journeys through such zones. Additionally, Uber provides £1 for each trip that drives through these zones, this was not factored into the analysis.