The way many people work is changing thanks to globalization, structural changes in the economy, mobile Internet use and generational shifts, according to a report released last week by Mary Meeker of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

Work represented one facet of Meeker’s report on Internet trends this year, which also covered mobile technology, Internet use in emerging markets, consumer spend and more. Meeker curated data from several sources.

But for contingent workforce users, the key findings centered on work.

Among the data: freelancers represent 34% of the US workforce and are growing. Freelancers include independent contractors, temporary workers, “moonlighters” who freelance in addition to having a standard job, diversified workers with multiple sources of income and business owners with one to five employees.

Here are some other findings:

Millennials, those aged 15 to 35, represent the largest age group in the US workforce but they have different expectations for work than previous generations. For example, 38% of millennials are freelancing compared to 32% among those over 35 years old. In addition, 32% of millennials believe they will work “mainly flexible hours” in the future.

Millennials also represent the largest group in “on-demand” employment with 44% of on-demand workers being millennials. Gen X comes next at 32%.

In addition, millennials tend to be more tech savvy with 34% preferring to collaborate online at work versus 19% for older generations. In addition, 45% of millennials use personal smartphones for work purposes versus 18% for older generations.

And when it comes to work values, the most important thing for millennials is meaningful work.

Online platforms

Online platforms and marketplaces, along with their mobile connectivity, are growing rapidly and creating new work opportunities and challenges for individuals. Meeker’s report says these online platforms will continue to rise.

However, workers typically use these sites to supplement income. On Thumbtack, an online platform, 37% of professionals are part time with income supplemented by other sources. And 61% of Uber drivers have another job.

Workers on Thumbtack earned an average of $8,000 per year. That compares to the median US household income of $51,900.

Online platforms bring benefits to workers such as flexibility, real-time feedback and can often effectively match skills. The downsides for workers include lack of clarity to work demand, lack of training and lack of predictable income.

Meeker’s report discusses online platforms that work with both consumers and businesses such as Upwork and those primarily consumer-focused such as Instacart.

A separate report by Staffing Industry Analysts is the differentiator and competitive landscape for freelancer management system providers that serve enterprise customers. The report is available to Contingent Workforce Strategies Council members.

More difficult
Meeker’s report also said the job market has become more difficult and work harder to find for many. The US population grew 2.4 times faster than jobs since 2000. That compares to 1948 through 2000 when jobs grew 1.7 times faster than population. In addition, traditional employer-provided benefits such as health insurance is declining.

Policies and laws
Meeker wrote businesses, workers and government must work together to be more aligned with emerging ways of doing business to bring solutions. As an example, she cites the ongoing battles over whether Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors or not. Uber, in particular, continues to do battle over its independent contractor platform and has raised the ire of taxi drivers.