Older Canadians Are Doing Gig Work

A quarter of Canadians 55-plus say they’ve have worked in the growing gig economy


A new Angus Reid survey finds that a third of Canadians are working in what’s come to be called the gig economy or has done so in the past five years; among those 55 or older, the proportion is one in four.

When we think of the growing gig economy and its short-term jobs, we tend to think of people who earn income as drivers for Uber or Lyft or as couriers for companies like Foodora, but according to the survey, only 4% of gig workers do. The largest proportion of respondents—35%—worked as white-collar freelancers, working in computer programming, copy-editing, or graphic design. Others work as babysitters, house cleaners, or dog walkers. Among those 55-plus, most did maintenance or handywork around people’s homes or worked as white-collar freelancers.

Just over half of respondents (53%) said they considered their freelancing part of a side-hustle, meaning they weren’t in a desperate financial situation but wanted to save more or have more disposable income. One in three (29%), however, said they had to take on the work to make ends meet and wouldn’t be able to get by without the income; one in four of those 55-plus said they were doing gig work because they had to.

Since these workers aren’t employees, they don’t receive benefits or the protections afforded regular workers by labour laws. As a result, many are routinely paid much less than regular employees—if they get paid.

More than one in 10 (13%) of respondents said they freelanced because they couldn’t find full-time work, and 11% said it’s their primary source of income. Statistics Canada recently announced that the Canadian economy lost about 71,200 jobs in November, including 38,400 full-time jobs.

Photo: iStock/Stas_V.