Canada’s casual work force has grown significantly in recent months, and new data suggests its gig workers are among the highest paid in the world.
Australia-based design platform Canva recently analyzed international data from 50 popular job categories across the online freelance platform Fiverr, looking specifically at those assignments that could be completed in three days or less. The study found that Canadians ranked 5th among the 37 member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for average earnings on the platform. By comparison, Canada ranks 12th among OECD nations for average earnings in the traditional economy.
Social media managers stand to earn the highest wages for casual work, averaging $788 per assignment, followed by video editors, who earned an average of $680 per job, and website designers, who earned an average of $580. The most popular freelance jobs within Canada, according to the study, are proofreading and editing, followed by video editing and translation.
“Canada’s bilingual status means that a greater proportion of the population will, statistically, be more likely to offer these type of services in both English and French, which would naturally attract more potential clients,” says Canva spokesperson Maddi Howell. “From our analysis, we can see that 17 per cent of [Canadian] freelancers that offer proofreading and editing are French speakers, 72 per cent are English speakers, and the remaining 11 per cent of sellers are speakers of minority languages.”
Another recent study conducted by SMB accounting software provider Intuit QuickBooks Canada found that the country’s casual work force has rapidly expanded during the pandemic. It found that nearly two million entrepreneurs launched a business in Canada in the past 12 months, 72 per cent of whom did so on a part-time basis, separate from their primary career – often referred to as a “side hustle” – since the pandemic began.
“The fact that people had more spare time, and the fact that people had to find sources of income as a direct result of the pandemic, prompted many to take the leap and to start their businesses, either full-time or part-time as a side hustle,” explains David Marquis, the vice-president and country manager of Intuit Canada.
According to the Intuit study, 39 per cent of Canada’s new entrepreneurs said they started their business because they had more spare time, while 23 per cent were motivated by financial pressure. An additional 15 per cent launched their business after identifying an unmet need in the market.
While some side hustlers provide their services locally, many are competing in a global digital marketplace. There, Mr. Marquis argues, Canadians have certain natural advantages over international competitors, which may be driving the higher-than-average rates.
“We’re diverse, educated, and digitally savvy; we are more internet-connected than many of the other nations,” he says. “We’re cheaper; if you look at us relative to the U.S. and other markets, our labour pool market, especially in tech, is cheaper, and that’s a draw. Time zones, we’re sitting next to the biggest market in the world, and that time zone, especially in a virtual environment, creates some synergies that make us an attractive market.”
Mr. Marquis adds that many of Canada’s newest entrepreneurs are part of its youngest working-age demographic, suggesting that the casual economy will continue to grow in the coming years. According to the study, 44 per cent of those who launched a business this year are members of Gen Z or millennials, an age range that broadly encompasses those under the age of 40 today. Only 25 per cent of new entrepreneurs are members of Gen X, who are currently in their 40s and 50s, and only 7 per cent are Baby Boomers, the generation that is currently in its late-50s to mid-70s.
“Those [younger] generations, as they emerge, more people that will take a step toward entrepreneurial activities, which means we’ll have more entrepreneurs in Canada starting new businesses,” says Mr. Marquis.
While Canada’s growing casual work force is likely a significant contributor to the nation’s economy, there remains some hesitancy to track and include data about this community in official economic reports.
“We get these monthly jobs reports in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, and they really only answer the question, ‘Do you have a job or not?’ and that’s really not the relevant question right now,” says Danielle Goldfarb, the head of global research for RIWI Corp., a global trend-tracking and prediction platform. “The relevant question is, ‘How are you earning your money?’”
Ms. Goldfarb explains that casual work has long been considered too small and statistically insignificant to include in official economic data, but argues that the activity seen in the last 12 months warrants further study.
The Bank of Canada did put out an analysis of Canada’s informal work force in 2019, which Ms. Goldfarb says is an acknowledgment that this community is a significant economic driver, but believes it is yet to receive the attention it deserves. (The Bank of Canada declined to be interviewed for this story.)
“It just raises a lot of really important questions for us to think about at this particular juncture,” she says. “It’s really important for us to understand the phenomenon; it’s more important than traditional official data would suggest it is; that we know, and our data supports that.”
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