To Gig or Not to Gig: How Inflation is Changing the Gig Economy

The gig economy refers to the increasing trend of individuals working as independent contractors, freelancers or temporary workers for on-demand platforms or companies. In Canada, the gig economy has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years due to factors such as the rise of technology, the pandemic, and the increasing demand for services like ride-sharing and food delivery.

In December, Statistics Canada reported that over 250,000 Canadians provided ride or delivery services through app platforms like Skip The Dishes or Uber at some point in 2022. StatsCan defines gig work as “short-term tasks, projects or jobs, with no assurance of steady employment”.  For over 23% of these workers, gig work provided their sole source of income and was not just a “side hustle”.

Who is working ride-share/delivery sector of the gig economy in Canada?

  • 73% are men
  • 56% are landed immigrants
  • 39 % had a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education

Inflation is directly impacting the bottom line of ride-share/delivery drivers. According to Uber, their Canadian drivers have the potential to make $25 per hour. However, this estimate has been challenged by recent research. A study conducted by RideFairTO determined that the average hourly earnings of Uber drivers in Toronto is $7.90 after accounting for expenses. The study found that the typical expenses, such as fuel, insurance, and maintenance, amount to a minimum of $12 per hour, leaving only a modest profit for drivers.

Inflation rates are just one of the many challenges faced by gig workers. Because these workers are classified as independent contractors and not employees, they lack job security, are not protected by employment legislation (in most provinces) and have limited access to health (or other) benefits. While the appeal of a flexible schedule attracts many to gig employment, they can experience highly variable hours from week to week due to fluctuating demand. This can make it difficult for workers to rely on a steady income and plan schedules.

The growing number of people who rely on gig economy income is the driving force behind upcoming changes to the federal Employment Insurance program and expected revisions to B.C.’s Employment Standards Act.