Nearly 900K Canadians did gig work as main job at end of 2022: StatCan

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Nearly 900K Canadians had gig work as main job at end of 2022: StatCan
WATCH: Nearly 900K Canadians had gig work as main job at end of 2022: StatCan – Mar 4, 2024

Whether it’s being a rideshare driver, someone who delivers food or a freelance translator, hundreds of thousands of Canadians are taking on “gigs” to add to their income, but nearly a million say it’s become their primary job.

A new report from Statistics Canada has found people taking on “gig work” as their main job reached 871,000 in the final three months of 2022.

According to the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) , gig work is a type of employment characterized by short-term jobs or tasks that do not guarantee steady work and where they must take specific actions to stay employed.

Thomas Sasso, assistant professor of management at the Gordon S Lang School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph, told Global News gig workers can encompass many fields.

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“We often think about it as task-based work,” he said. “And we also talk about it as time-limited, meaning that there’s not a long-term contract that an individual is employed by.”

Of the 871,000 Canadians who said “gig work” was their main job, there were an average 624,000 who were self employed aged 15 to 69 whose job had characteristics the agency noted is “consistent with the concept of gig work,” which includes a lack of employees or a physical building dedicated to their job.

There are benefits to those who take on gig work, such as flexibility of time or being able to “lean in” to a hobby.

Click to play video: 'Gig drivers protest deteriorating working conditions in B.C.'
Gig drivers protest deteriorating working conditions in B.C.

There are issues, however, ranging from not knowing when the next paycheque will come to not receiving benefits like health insurance.

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In addition, they could face a lack of credibility which could be a barrier to getting a full-time, salaried job, because of the instability of gig work leaving more gaps on their resume.

Sasso adds lifetime aspirations like qualifying for a mortgage could also be impacted or even having a child because of concerns being able to afford the necessities of child care.

But as more people join the so-called “gig economy,” the agency notes in the third quarter of 2022, more than half a million self-employed workers and those who work through digital platforms lacked control over what is often considered the full benefits of working for themselves. This includes hiring paid assistance, choosing your own work hours, and setting your own prices.

Not only that, these same groups are paid as independent contractors, meaning they don’t have access to what employees have access to, such as protection under employment standards legislation.

Sasso said more work needs to be done by governments and workplaces who may be clients of gig workers to put in better supports, including education so those engaging in such work know their rights, and changing mindsets among the public so it’s not just seen as a side job.

Click to play video: 'Experts, economists call for more labour rights for gig workers'
Experts, economists call for more labour rights for gig workers

According to Sasso, while some of the 871,000 Canadians with gig work as a main job may have entered into it voluntarily, there are others who may have turned to it or almost “forced” into it due to issues preventing them from a salaried job. For example, individuals with disabilities who might not have the access to work at an office and thus a work-from-home “gig” may be more accessible.

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The problem, he notes, is the number of gig workers could be a signal of a bigger problem for Canada.

“If we are at a point, as we currently are, where gig work is becoming a necessity, then that means that our employment systems are failing and our social structures are failing to ensure that people have the basic needs to live a healthy, productive, well life,” he told Global News.

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