How many Platform Workers do we have anyway? Is it possible to count them?

How many people are working in the platform economy?

While it is difficult to estimate the size of the gig economy, the World Development Report 2019 mentions the following statistics: Worldwide, the total freelancer population is estimated at around 84 million, or less than 3 percent of the global labor force of 3.5 billion. Depending on the definition and duration of gig work, researchers estimate that 0.4-22% of the global labour market is involved in the gig economy.

Those in the platform economy may also hold a traditional job and may engage in gig work to supplement their incomes. There are also estimates that 0.5 per cent (some statistics indicate 1%) of the labour force in the United States to 5 per cent in Europe is engaged in the platform economy.

Bureau of Labour Statistics in USA reported in June 2018 that nearly 10% of the American workforce (16.5 million) are working under contingent and alternative employment arrangements.11 The Freelancing in America 2018 report, published by Upwork and the Freelancers Union indicated that 56.7 million people in the US freelanced during 2017-18.12

Figure 1: Countries where Micro-task workers live

Microtask Workers Lives

Source: screenshot from “Job quality in the platform economy” published by ILO (2018)

There is also an Online Labour Index (OLI) which is the first economic indicator that provides an online gig economy equivalent of conventional labour market statistics. The Index measures the supply and demand of online freelance labour around the world by tracking the number of projects and tasks across various platforms in real time. The data collected by the Index also shows where the gig work is being done worldwide.13