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Gen Z Driving the Changing Demographics of Independent Work

Gen Z has often been called “the most entrepreneurial generation ever.”  The data increasingly shows this to be true. 2021 represents a watershed year in terms of the generational makeup of the independent workforce.

As the study chart below shows the two youngest generations – Gen Z (born 1997-2012) and Millennials (born 1980-1996) – make up the majority of independent workers (freelancers, self-employed, gig workers, etc.). 2021 is the first year when this is the case.

Soi demographics 2021

A key driver of this shift has been the rapid growth of Gen Z independent workers.  Although the oldest Gen Zers are only 24 years old, they comprise 17% of the independent workforce.

This compares to only 6% of independent workers aged 18-24 a decade ago (data from the 2012 MBO Partners State of Independence study). Obviously, a lot’s changed since 2012. In 2012 the gig economy platforms (Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit), which are popular today with younger independent workers, were just getting started. And the creator economy, where Gen Z makes up 27% of independent content creators, didn’t exist. Nor did many of the tools, websites and education programs that make it easier and cheaper to become independent workers today.

The attitudes towards self-employment have also changed. Many Gen Zers have decided they don’t want their lives defined by work. Instead, they seek autonomy, freedom and control. And, they look for work that fits their values and passions. These, of course, are also reasons people of all ages become self-employed and start small businesses.  Gen Z is just starting earlier than past generations.


This article was originally published here.

Steve King

Steve King is an advisory board member of JEM and a founding partner of Emergent Research where he leads the firm’s ongoing research identifying, analyzing and forecasting the global trends and shifts impacting consumers, small businesses, the gig economy, independent workers and Web 3.0’s role in future of work. Steve enjoys wide industry recognition as an expert on the future of work. He is an active public speaker and has written for the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, U.S. News and World Report, Venture Beat, Wired and other publications.

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