All around the world, the gig economy is becoming a mainstay. The proliferation of on-demand services and the sharing economy are changing the way we live, work, and spend money. At the same time, flexibility and independence are playing a much more prominent role in how people choose to structure their working life. In fact, freelancers could make up half of the workforce in the US within one decade.

For many, freelancing provides an opportunity to become entrepreneurs or consultants, with the ability to choose their own projects and forge their own future. Despite its benefits, this type of work has always involved trade-offs. People may work multiple, on-demand jobs with flexibility and independence, but experience volatility in terms of pay and benefits. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to gig workers’ financial vulnerability because they have been among the hardest-hit workers.

Indeed, the pandemic has impacted every facet of global commerce and the gig economy is no exception. However, the pandemic’s impact on the gig economy has not been uniform. Gig economy sectors that enable social distancing, such as food and goods delivery, have experienced surging demand. Sectors that require social proximity, like ride sharing, have seen declining demand. Although it is unknown whether these trends will endure, indications suggest that gig platforms will play an increasingly prominent role in connecting freelancers to job opportunities.

Mastercard and Kaiser Associates previously published a detailed outlook and needs assessment on the global gig economy. This study included in-depth interviews with senior leaders at gig economy platforms across multiple regions and industries to determine not only the global gig economy’s size and growth potential, but also to highlight how gig platforms can create a differentiated position in a competitive marketplace.

In a new paper, 'Fueling the global gig economy', we investigate how real-time wage disbursements can help solve some of the pain points of the growing segment of people earning a living via gig economy platforms. We specifically explore how card-based disbursements — for which we’re already seeing pronounced adoption — can improve the financial well-being of gig workers and support the efforts of gig platforms themselves.

I hope you enjoy reading the paper and welcome you to engage in the discussion about how real-time, card-based payments can help to fuel the growth of the gig economy.

Shari Krikorian, Senior Vice President, New Payment Platforms,

Shari Krikorian is Senior Vice President for real-time funds transfers. She is responsible for the product strategy and commercialisation of Mastercard Send, a new frontier in faster, better push payments.