Rights & Money

Canada’s Gig Economy is Growing

Non-permanent work is on the rise in Canada


By Matt Smith


What has come to be called the gig economy—think of musicians moving from gig to gig—represents a shift in Canada’s labour market that has seen more and more people working at short-term jobs on contract or as freelancers, rather than in traditional permanent jobs with benefits. Now a recent study from the Bank of Montreal shows that the country’s gig economy is steadily growing—and showing no signs of stopping any time soon.

Temporary, contract, and other forms of on-demand or short-term employment are on the rise, with Statistics Canada reporting 2.18 million Canadians as temporary workers in September 2017.

This kind of short-term employment is becoming even more common than part-time work: 85% of companies surveyed anticipate that the amount of gig work will grow steadily nationwide.

The BMO study surveyed temporary workers from across the country, looking into the reasons workers are joining the gig economy. Each demographic surveyed reported different motivations, with many younger people being driven to do so out of necessity. Boomers, on the other hand, seemed more drawn to the freedom that comes with being self-employed—70% reported the desire to retain “autonomy and control” over their working life as a major factor in this decision. Working freelance or on short contracts can allow people to ease into retirement more gently, gaining more time to spend with family while still earning an income.

Despite the greater independence, gig work does come with its downsides: most notably the lack of health, dental, or disability benefits—one reason many employers are keen on using short-term workers than having to fill positions. This was a major concern for 87% of the boomers surveyed. Other disadvantages include the lack of paid sick days and concerns of lower wages in contrast to traditional full-time work.

These risks require some smart planning. The BMO report recommends that gig workers make—and stick to—a business plan and a budget. They also recommend maintaining an emergency fund and investing in individual health coverage and disability and liability insurance. A sound financial plan centred around minimizing debt is key to success in the gig economy, as short-term work offers no job security.

Photo: iStock/Ridofranz.