A new survey suggests millions of Canadians are working in the “gig economy,” and the country is divided over whether that’s a good or bad thing.
The data, published Tuesday by the Angus Reid Institute, suggested nearly one in five Canadians (17 per cent) are currently earning a living off temporary jobs, while the same percentage of respondents said they had worked precarious jobs in the past five years and aren’t currently.
That means more than a third of Canadian workers (34 per cent) have already participated in the gig economy, according to Angus Reid.
Two out of three Canadians surveyed say they have never worked precariously, but that could soon change. The number of temporary workers in Canada has increased by 50 per cent from 1998 to 2018, Statistics Canada reported in May.
The federal government has been warning for years about a so-called “job churn” as work evolves and disappears in the 21st century, while a staffing agency suggested “non-traditional” jobs are set to become the new norm in the coming decade, including contract work and self-employment.
Angus Reid says the most common jobs for these types of workers are freelancing in graphic design or computer programming, along with handy work, babysitting and child care. Some other popular temp jobs involve driving, sales, dog walking, house painting, lawn care, house sitting and office work.
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Not all Canadians sound sold on the idea of a gig economy, the new findings revealed. Two out of three respondents had concerns about the lack of benefits associated with these jobs and more than half (55 per cent) worried about lacklustre regulations to protect temporary and contract workers.
Despite the concerns, Canadians both young and old are taking on these precarious roles. Four out of 10 Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 say they have worked temporary jobs, while one in four people over 55 say they have, as well, Angus Reid reported.
Not everyone views this economic evolution negatively. Three out of four Canadians say they see the benefit in potentially earning extra income through these types of jobs, while 39 per cent of respondents said it would help workers better control their work-life balance, the new survey found.
There are many reasons why Canadians are flocking to these temporary jobs, but the most pressing one seems the most obvious: money. Workers entrenched in the gig economy are more likely to be earning household incomes under $50,000 per year, according to Angus Reid, and they’re far more likely to have concerns about household job security and their ability to retire comfortably.
Statistics Canada says Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest proportion of temporary workers in Canada at 23 per cent in 2018. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec were all at 13 per cent.
A Bank of Canada report from earlier this year said 82 per cent of precarious workers were doing it as a main or extra source of income. And it appears to be especially common among young people. The central bank’s report said 58 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 were taking on informal work, which was nearly double the percentage of the total population (30 per cent).
There are some unintended side effects for those working in the gig economy, particularly millennials. A 2018 survey suggested nearly three in 10 millennials reported being depressed or anxious because of their work situation.
The closer you are to the reality of working in a gig economy, the more likely you are to praise its benefits, the Angus Reid survey found.
After all, some work is better than no work at all if you’re trying to make ends meet in 2019.