This week, the Gig Economy Data Hub is releasing new interactive data tools that help readers learn more about non-traditional workers in the U.S. Read more The Gig Economy Data Hub is a partnership between the ILR School and the Future of Work Initiative. The term “ gig economy ” refers to a free market system in which traditional businesses hire independent contractors, freelancers, and short-term workers to perform individual tasks, assignments, or jobs. Freedom to Harm, the Gig Economy and Zero. April 19, 2021 by Dr Rob Long 2 Comments. Freedom to Harm, the Gig Economy and Zero. One of the jokes of the. The gig economy is no longer an outlier. According to a recent McKinsey Global report titled Independent Work: Choice, Necessity and the Gig Economy found that 162 million people in Europe and the United States—or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population—engage in some form of independent work. Because the gig economy is a new, flexible, and short-term model of work, it does not provide the benefits and the protections that come with traditional full-time employment, such as life and health insurance, unemployment insurance, paid vacation or days off and minimum wage protection.

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The History of the Gig Economy

Following the growth of the gig economy through the milestones of Airbnb, Uber and Lyft

From temp positions to freelancing, people have been working short-term jobs forever. But it’s only within the last few years that we’ve begun to hear more and more about the “gig economy.” So, what is it?

Generally defined as the sector of the service industry involving work done on a temporary basis, the gig economy has gained nearly one million workers in just 10 years. (1) Recent advances in technology and a litany of benefits, like additional income, flexible hours, and self-management, are likely why it’s grown. Let’s explore this growth through three of the gig economy’s biggest players: Airbnb, Uber and Lyft.


August 2008: Airbnb founded as “AirBed and Breakfast” by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia (2)

March 2009: 10,000 users and 2,500 listings on the newly rebranded “AirBnb” (3)

February 2011: 1 million nights booked on Airbnb, and international competition began popping up(3)

June 2011: 2 million nights booked on Airbnb, which had only one office in San Francisco (4)

January 2012: 5 million nights booked and 100,000 listings on Airbnb. Operations spread to 192 countries (3)

June 2012: 10 million nights booked and 200,000 listings on Airbnb, which grew to 10 offices around the world (4)

December 2012: 4 million guests hosted through Airbnb over the previous four years (3)

October 2013: 9 million guests hosted through Airbnb – 73 times the number of guests from three years prior (3)

September 2015: 7 million users and 1.5 million listings on Airbnb, including castles, tree houses and yurts (5)

Gig economy regulation

February 2018: 300 million guests hosted and Airbnb aims to serve 1 billion people a year by 2028 (6)


March 2009: Uber founded by Travis Kalanick as a way to lower the cost of black-car service (7)

December 2011: 6 cities served by Uber. Operations in the latest one — Washington D.C. — were established in just 6 weeks (8)

July 2012: 12 cities served by Uber with only 75 employees (8)

July 2013: 35 cities served by Uber with 300 employees(8)

January 2014: 60 cities served by Uber with 550 employees(8)

October 2016: 500 cities — 480 million annual riders — served by Uber, which operates black cars, rideshares, meal delivery and more (9)


June 2012: Lyft founded by John Zimmer and Logan Green after pivoting away from Zimride, a college-based ridesharing program (3)

May 2013: 1,560,000 annual riders served by Lyft, which only operated in California (10)

July 2013: 6 cities served by Lyft, whose founders sell Zimride to fund its expansion (3)

April 2014: 50 cities served by Lyft, which announced its push into 24 new markets on a single day (11)

August 2014: 70 cities served by Lyft as it competed with Uber for market share (3)

Gig Economy Meaning

December 2015: 80 million annual riders served by Lyft — a 100% growth year over year (12)

December 2016: 160 million annual riders served by Lyft, which reached 80% of the U.S. population (12)

February 2017: 300 cities served by Lyft, which announced 54 of them on a single day (9)

July 2017: 365 million annual riders served by Lyft — a 100% growth year over year for the second year in a row (12)

The Future of the Gig Economy

While the growth of Airbnb, Uber and Lyft is astounding, the future of the gig economy at large is just as impressive. In 2017, traditional employees (102.7 million) outnumbered those in the gig economy (57.3 million), but those roles are expected to reverse by 2027, when traditional employees (83.4 million) will be edged out by those in the gig economy (86.5 million). (13)

Simply put, the gig economy is set to become the economy. Are you ready? William Jessup University’s online degree programs will help you succeed the new economy.

Gig Economy



What Is A Gig Worker

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