New research reveals what matters to gig workers

Courier in protective mask and medical gloves demonstrates gig work during COVID 19.

When many businesses closed or limited services during the pandemic, both consumers and workers turned to on-demand platforms. This year, 67.6 million Americans are projected to be involved in some type of gig work, from meal delivery to childcare, household tasks, and tutoring. Even as global lockdowns are beginning to ease, the gig economy remains strong.

To get an in-depth understanding of a new mode of work that is likely to remain popular, Branch, an employer payments platform, and Marqeta surveyed 1,000 gig workers about the issues that define them as a group.

Financial security

Given the nature of gig work, it’s no surprise that gig workers are primarily concerned with meeting day-to-day needs. Paying for housing (48%) and utilities (27%) were among the top financial concerns. And, like many Americans, they don’t have much in savings. Nearly four in five (79%) reported they had an emergency savings cushion of less than $500. In the event of a financial emergency, two in five (42%) reported that they would not be able to access funds other than their primary bank account.

The ability to pick up work

When pandemic lockdowns hit in the spring of 2020, millions of Americans found themselves looking at reduced hours and limited job opportunities. To cope, many turned to on-demand platforms. More than four out of five respondents (85%) said they planned to sign for additional work or had already done so. Gig work was not their primary source of income, however. Four out of five respondents (79%) said they held another job that provided at least half their income. With limited time to take on extra shifts, three out of four of gig workers (73%) said they typically worked with one or two platforms.

Faster payments

When asked whether they associated faster payouts with greater peace of mind, nine out of ten respondents  (93%) agreed. It’s no surprise, then, that when choosing one platform over another, fast, flexible payments won out. Workers reported preferring platforms with payouts that were faster (26%) and more generous (39%). One in three respondents (33%) specified that they wanted to get paid after a job was completed versus two in five (39%) who were satisfied with getting paid at the end of a working day. But this distinction may have been semantic. Nearly nine of ten respondents (87%) said they were likely to choose one gig platform over another if it could pay them instantly without fees. Nearly three out of four respondents (75%) said they wanted to be paid via debit card over other payment methods.

Convenience

When it comes to adopting gadgets that give them a small edge over traditional methods of getting stuff done, gig workers are no different than anyone else. Four out of five respondents (80%) said they had increased their use of digital wallets. But when asked how they wanted to be paid, debit cards still trumped digital wallets by a significant amount (74% versus 14%).

“This new survey shows how the new possibilities created by modern card issuing are directly empowering more positive financial experiences for those in need,” said Vidya Peters, Marqeta CMO. “When looking to gig work, people are motivated by the idea of being able to access their earnings immediately, and without fees. We can see that not only are these demands creating a new relationship with our money, they’re bringing greater peace of mind and financial security.”

As lockdowns start to lift, businesses are expected to open back up, expand their hours, and start on-boarding employees. On-demand platforms will soon be competing not just with other on-demand platforms, but also with brick-and-mortar businesses for workers.

Companies that are prepared to meet workers’ concerns head-on can give their platform a competitive edge. Fast, flexible payments pushed directly to debit cards or mobile wallets give workers the financial peace of mind they want with the speed and flexibility they have come to expect from gig work.

Read the report.