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Approximately 20 to 30 per cent of the Canadian workforce comprises of contingent workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and consultants. The self-employment rate continues to grow as consumers continue to support the sharing of services fueling the gig economy – but is the increase in precarious employment by choice or circumstance?

Many employers have turned to inexpensive and unrestrained human labour through the cyclical renewal of short-term contracts. The commitment to precarious employment matches seasonal business fluctuations and decreases compensation expenses, but these organizations may risk lowering the recruitment process quality, not complying to legal requirements, or damaging the company brand.

The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey collected responses from (1) 10,455 millennials born between January 1983 and December 1994 from 36 countries having college or university degrees, are employed full time and work predominantly in large, private-sector organizations, and (2) 1,844 Gen Zs born between January 1995 and December 1999 in Australia, Canada, China, India, the United Kingdom or the United States, currently studying for or have obtained a first/higher degree.

For respondents considering joining the gig economy to substitute full-time employment, only 38 per cent of millennials and 27 per cent of Gen Zs wouldn’t consider the idea, and of respondents considering joining the gig economy to supplement full-time employment, only 17 per cent of millennials and 13 per cent of Gen Zs wouldn’t consider the idea. The top three reasons why millennials and Gen Zs have joined or would consider joining the gig economy are: increasing income, choosing own hours, and work/life balance.

As more Canadians enter self-employment to replace or supplement their primary source of income, and more consider working for themselves later in their career, how sustainable is the gig economy, and what are the implications on our society? Most importantly, are these temporary employees enjoying the flexibility, or merely forced into the short-term contract cycle.