A growing number of Americans are finding work in the nation’s gig economy, and it’s become something of an equal opportunity employer — at least gender-wise.
A new report from Wonolo.com, an online startup that connects underemployed people with temporary work, shows a 50/50 split between men and women gig workers who use its service. The study also reveals a narrow pay gap, with women earning 98 percent of the hourly pay their male counterparts earn.
That 2 percent gap falls well below the 20 percent gap that exists across the nation’s entire economy, according to research from the American Association of University Women.
A narrow pay gap
The average pay for a male Wonolo worker in the gig economy is $14.69 per hour; women are close behind with $14.38 an hour, the company reported.
The figures — based on research involving 300,000 Wonolo users and data from companies scattered throughout the U.S. — is largely reflective of the industry as a whole, says Beatrice Pang, the company’s vice president of strategy and finance.
But when it comes to pay equity, Wonolo may have a leg up on its competitors. It works like this: Once a worker is vetted and approved, they have access to every job on the platform and can choose to accept any job they want. Employers don’t have the option of rejecting someone based on gender or other factors, so once a Wonolo worker accepts a job it’s theirs.
“We also found that in some industries, like delivery and merchandising, women are actually earning more,” Pang said.
Wonolo figures show female delivery drivers average 7 cents more per hour than male drivers, while women who work in merchandising average 40 cents more per hour. Figures show that 78,000 of Wonolo’s 300,000 users are in Southern California.
Delivery jobs pay the most
In Southern California, the average age of a Wonolo gig worker is 31, and the most popular jobs are in customer service, manufacturing/production and food production. And the highest average pay? That falls under the categories of delivery ($20.53 an hour), customer service ($15.89 an hour) and event staff ($14.89 an hour).
The report notes that 12.6 percent of American workers are underemployed, meaning they would prefer to work full-time but are getting less than 40 hours a week. Many are blue-collar workers who hold regular jobs in such industries as retail, shipping and fulfillment and delivery. Others have full-time jobs but are looking to supplement their income.
All told, 36 percent of U.S. workers are part of the gig economy in some capacity, the report said.
Struggling to stay afloat
Many pursue gig work because it’s flexible and allows them to work when and where they want. But it doesn’t always pan out the way they envision.
Drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services have become a common sight on Southern California streets and freeways. And although the job is typically promoted as an easy and flexible way to earn extra cash, a 2018 study from UCLA reveals many drivers are working extra hours for longer durations while struggling to stay afloat.
Janna Shadduck-Hernandez, project director for the report and a faculty member at UCLA, offered her perspective on that shortly after the UCLA report was released last year.
“Many of these drivers initially see this as a novelty and an easy way to make some added income,” she said. “But with all of the expenses they end up paying, some drivers find they are not even making minimum wage.”
Another 2016 report from the McKinsey Global Institute reveals people who do independent work by choice report greater satisfaction with their work lives than those who do it out of necessity because they are financially strapped.