Many American “Gig Workers” Working Without Health or Retirement Benefits

Health Insurance. Workplace of a doctor. Stethoscope on wooden desk.

The Expanding Gig Economy Also Has Its Downsides

A retirement-benefits information website, Plan Sponsor, has recently carried out a survey on “gig jobs” to determine the benefits that “gig workers” receive in the “gig economy.”

The concept of a gig economy may be fairly new for many Americans, but this niche is rapidly expanding. In a gig economy, people typically work in an independent, contractual, or freelance arrangement and work temporary or part-time jobs with flexible working hours.

Take, for instance, the very commonly cited examples of Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb, Inc. By giving rides in their cars or renting out their residential spaces, Americans are making money without being employed full-time, or in some cases, using these gigs as secondary sources of income while working full-time jobs.

Plan Sponsor conducted a survey to determine how many Americans know someone working a gig job and whether the gig worker receives employment benefits like healthcare coverage and enrolment in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.


The survey found that nearly two-thirds of the respondents, about 68.4%, have either themselves worked a gig job or know somebody who undertook gig work. Only about 31.6% said they did not know of anyone employed in the gig economy.

Amongst those who knew of, or had worked as, gig workers, a good two-third majority (about 68.7%) said they took the gig job prior to their retirement. The remaining one-third (about 31.2%) said the gig workers had retired before getting into the gig job.

The statistics got more interesting once respondents shared the lack of benefits in gig employment. A whopping 87.5% of the survey respondents said that gig workers did not receive any health or retirement benefits in a gig job.

On the contrary, only about 6.2% of the respondents said the gig worker received healthcare benefits, while another 6.2% said the gig job paid retirement benefits.

Once again, it is interesting to note that no respondent in the survey knew of a gig job that delivered both retirement and healthcare benefits.

So while gig jobs come with the bonus of having a flexible work schedule and less work-related stress from meeting deadlines, the lack of employment benefits remains a big trade-off, which discourages many to partake in the gig economy.

Nonetheless, the number of gig workers in America is growing. Policymakers could use this trend as an opportunity to make America’s gig economy a lucrative job market by aptly addressing the issue of employment benefits.



SURVEY SAYS: ‘Gig’ Workers and Benefits,” Plan Sponsor, August 21, 2017.


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