Gig workers may lack access to traditional employee benefits and find themselves frequently in precarious financial situations, requiring them to tap savings and forgo retirement planning, but they also don’t hold it against their employers.
These are just some of the key findings from Stash’s October Gig Economy survey, which polled 1,240 customers who identified themselves as working in the gig economy.1
While 90% of those surveyed said they lack access to traditional employer benefits such as health care, access to retirement accounts, and paid time off, only 12% said they were dissatisfied with their employers.
A resounding 57% of respondents said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their employers. About one third were neutral.
Despite positive employer sentiment, the survey found that lack of access to employee benefits may leave gig workers uniquely vulnerable to financial instability. Since becoming gig workers, more than half report having to borrow or sell off assets to pay for emergency expenses. Similarly, 28% have had to tap into savings “too many times to count” to pay for such emergencies. Meanwhile, more than a quarter say they are not actively building an emergency fund, and nearly half say they are not actively saving for retirement.
Who are gig workers?
Gig workers are typically classified as contract workers who perform specific tasks for short periods of time, and they have usually lacked the protections and agreements that full time and salaried workers have with their employers. Many gig workers staff the new economy of app-based, on-demand service businesses, including Lyft and Uber, Postmates, Grubhub, TaskRabbit, and Instacart, while others freelance or work as contractors across different business sectors.
By the numbers, more than a third of respondents work in the transportation and delivery industry, which can include driving for companies such as Uber and Lyft. Six percent work in retail, while 4% work in technology, and 2% work in construction, among other categories.
Roughly 48% identified as male, and 51% female. The remainder identified as other.
Nearly half of those surveyed earn less than $50,000 annually.
A national debate about worker rights
The findings come as national protests of Uber and Lyft heat up, with drivers reportedly organizing into a labor movement, advocating for better working conditions, increased pay, and access to employee benefits. Concerns that a new California law aims to directly address.
The law, called Assembly Bill 5, says contract workers—including janitors, many construction workers, beauticians, and drivers—must now pass something called the ABC test, in which employers must prove their employees are not central to the way they do business. Companies must also prove that their contractors are independently established in a trade or occupation that’s the same as the work they do for the company that hires them for contract work.
Workers classified as contractors are typically not covered by a wide swath of employee laws, including minimum wage, unemployment, and disability insurance, sick leave and discrimination protections, according to sources. Assembly Bill 5 aims to change this.
How to start saving for your future today
Whether you work in the gig economy or not, there are steps you can take today to help reach your goals and find financial freedom. If it’s an emergency fund you’re after, start by putting small amounts of money away each month—maybe $20 or $50, more if you can. If you can automate your savings, even better.
Once you’ve built up your emergency fund, you may be in a position to pursue other goals, like saving for retirement, your child’s education, a house, and more.
And most importantly, you’ll know that if things go wrong, you’re covered.