How large is the Gig Economy? New research from Staffing Industry Analysts shows that it is big.

Taking into account all aspects of the Gig Economy, it represented US$3.50 trillion in spend in 2015 on a global basis.

That’s a big number, but Staffing Industry Analysts considers the Gig Economy to include temporary workers assigned through a staffing agency, independent contractors, temporary workers sourced directly by client companies, statement-of-work consultants and human cloud workers. The human cloud includes workers using online staffing platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer; online services firms such as Uber where workers perform a specific task; and crowdsourcing, where a large task is broken down into small pieces and distributed to an online network of workers.

  • We estimate gross revenue from “human cloud firms” at a median $27.0 billion on a global basis in 2015.
  • Globally, spend on temporary agency workers is estimated at $366.0 billion in 2015.
  • Spend on other temporary workers, including those employed directly by user companies without going through a staffing firm, totaled an estimated $610.7 billion in 2015.
  • Independent contractors, the largest category of Gig Economy work, represented an estimated $2.039 trillion in spend in 2015.
  • And statement-of-work contractors represented an estimated $458.00 billion in spend in 2015.

It is believed that a substantial number of contingent workers in the Gig Economy definition are “moonlighters” who perform contingent work to supplement a traditional, full-time job — this is especially the case with the human cloud. Global revenue does not include “informal” work.

Looking at the US alone there were 44 million contingent workers in 2015, representing 29% of all workers. Total spend on Gig Workforce was $792 billion in 2015.

Recently, several other firms have also released survey data on the Gig Economy/freelance workforce, although methodologies differ. An Upwork survey says 35% of the US workforce is freelancing. McKinsey Global Institute says 20% to 30% of the US and European workforce engage in some type of independent work.