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World Bank estimates there are 435 million online gig workers globally

World Bank estimates there are 435 million online gig workers globally

September 11, 2023

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There are between 154 million and 435 million online gig economy workers across the globe, representing 4.4% to 12.5% of the global workforce, according to a report by the World Bank titled Without Borders: The Promise and Peril of Online Gig Work. The high estimate includes those who do gig work as secondary or marginal workers.

The World Bank estimates there are 545 online gig work platforms across the globe with headquarters in 63 countries and platform workers and clients located in 186 countries.

However, the report notes there are both positives and negatives when it comes to online gig economy work.

“While gig work is creating new work opportunities, it comes with significant challenges,” according to the report. “Risks and inequalities still exist in the gig economy. Those without access to the internet or to digital devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets remain excluded. Many workers experience discrimination in accessing work or high-paying tasks, particularly women and workers in developing countries.”

Gig jobs are also sporadic and don’t always provide a clear career progression for youth, and they can leave many people spending long hours searching for gig tasks without success.

The World Bank’s report’s definition of online gig job includes two types:

  • Location-based gig jobs in which a digital platform allocates work that is tangible and/or delivers to a client in a physical location such as ridesharing, delivery or home services.

  • Online gig jobs where the work is delivered online. This is broken down into two categories: online freelancing (tech, graphic design, etc.) and microwork that involves breaking tasks down into small subtasks that can be completed in seconds or minutes by remote workers through online platforms.

John Nurthen, Executive Director Global Research, at Staffing Industry Analysts commented: ” It is helpful that the World Bank recognises two distinct classes of gig work given that poor practices in location-based gig jobs is driving the legislative agenda with the risk that it unfairly and unjustifiably impacts other forms of gig work.

Low- and middle-income countries account for 40% of traffic to gig platforms, according to the report. Developed countries still dominate demand for online labour, but demand from developing countries is increasing at a faster rate.

Most online gig workers tend to be aged under 30, and women in most regions are participating in the online gig economy to a greater extent than in the general labour market - although a large wage gap still exists. Six out of 10 gig workers live in smaller cities.

Still, the report recognises that gig work can be a benefit as well.

“Gig opportunities can be used as a short-term measure to support labour market inclusion for women and youth in areas that lack local jobs,” according to the report. “Governments can partner with platforms to provide support and training for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to access these income-earning opportunities.”