Gig economy on the rise in the UK

Oxford research reveals 14% increase in on-demand freelance platforms in the UK since May

The online gig economy is taking off in the UK - but it has some way to go to catch up with the US. 

The online gig, or "on-demand", economy is made up of flexible, short-term work managed via online platforms, such as Uber, TaskRabbit, or UpWork. And it's use is quickly growing, particularly for software development and other tech firms.

That's according to researchers from the University of Oxford, Professor Vili Lehdonvirta and Otto Kassi, who are tracking the rise of such work via a new Online Labour Index. Their work shows that the US is one of the biggest users of online platforms for hiring freelance workers, with 52% of all vacancies posted using such sites.

That's compared to Britain and India, which came in second and third respectively at around 6% each. Such work is growing at a rate of 9% since May, with the UK posting growth of 14%. 

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"These are striking figures when they are contrasted with growth rates in conventional labour markets, which remain stagnant in the UK and US according to latest national statistics," said Lehdonvirta. "Yet, this burgeoning online economy has been largely unobserved and is missing from conventional labour market statistics."

Lehdonvirta added that the shift to such temporary work could have "deep and wide-ranging implications" for both the workforce and companies. 

Regardless of the country and its market makeup, software development and other technology roles are the most advertised, followed by creative or multimedia jobs, and then clerical, data entry, translation and other professional services. 

"This similarity between countries is surprising given substantial differences are recorded in conventional labour market statistics. However, this could be because software development and technology companies are among the first to use online platforms for engaging workers, as you might expect," said Lehdonvirta.

"This practice may soon replace job agencies or traditional ad placements and become more commonplace for sectors across the board. Once this happens, we would expect the Online Labour Index to reflect countries' economic structures more closely."

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