Online platforms and mobile apps frustrate Canadian gig workers when it comes to pay day, reveals new Payments Canada study

Canadian gig workers frustrated with how and when they get paid through online platforms and mobile apps despite 51% who depend on them for gig income, reveals new Payments Canada study. As gig economy engagement evolves, payment concerns point to new opportunities for digital platforms.

The gig economy has quickly become a key employment source for more than one in ten working Canadians (12%), of which 21% rely on gig work as their primary source of income and 65% rely on it to supplement another source of income.

Despite the economic importance of the gig economy to boost Canadians’ income, a new study by Payments Canada reveals that many gig workers feel skeptical of the digital and mobile platforms that 51% of workers rely on to source work; fuelled by pain points when it comes to how and when they are getting paid.

This points to an opportunity to evolve future payment systems for gig workers, including through digital gig platforms. The newly released study, conducted between February 27 and March 10, 2023, explores the profile of Canadian gig workers and how they are engaging in the gig economy.

Key study findings:

  • 82% of Canadian gig workers work part-time
  • 67% have worked in the gig economy for three years or less 
  • 41% of gig workers do not agree that gig platforms are a good way to make a living 
  • 36% say time to get paid is a major pain point 
  • 27% of Canadian gig workers are newcomers to Canada
  • 94% of gig workers send money internationally on a frequent or occasional basis 
  • Gig workers skew younger (43%), male (61%), well-educated (57%) and living in urban areas (50%)

“As Canada’s workforce continues to rapidly evolve with the increased adoption of freelance, contract, self-employed and gig work, expectations around how and when workers want to be paid are also shifting,” said Jon Purther, Director, Market Insights, Payments Canada. “Newer technologies will continue to reshape the payment landscape, including pay-on-demand, real-time pay, and request-for-pay. In an ever more borderless marketplace, international payments and the ability to send and receive money in real-time will continue to be key. Keeping pace with these shifting market dynamics is critical for employers and digital gig platforms — with convenience, speed and safety at the core of all payment innovations.”

Additional study findings:

Around half (51%) of gig workers have used online platforms or mobile apps to find work: Gig platforms or applications (apps) through which workers source work and coordinate payment include Clickworker, Crowdsource, Fiverr, Uber, TaskRabbit and Etsy. Younger Canadians (from 18 to 34 years old) are more likely to use these platforms or apps (65%), compared to those from 35 to 54 years old (46%) and those over 55 years old (24%).

Gig workers have frustrations when it comes to gig platforms and apps, despite high usage: More than half of Canadian gig workers use online platforms or mobile apps for gig work; however, the gig workforce are divided in their sentiment toward digital gig platforms and mobile apps. While 59% agree that earning money through gig platforms is a good way to make a living, 41% do not agree. In addition, while 58% agree that earning money through gig platforms is a good way to build a career, 42% disagree. The research indicates that a common pain point or area of frustration amongst gig workers is how and when they get paid.

Disconnect between how gig workers are getting paid and how they want to get paid: Interac e-Transfer is the leading method used for gig workers to get paid (43%). While Interac e-Transfer and direct deposit are the top two methods for how gig workers want to be paid (48% and 29% respectively), one in three gig workers currently get paid using PayPal. Cash also continues to be a desirable way for gig workers to be paid (25%).

Time to get paid is a key pain point for gig workers (36%): It takes at least one week to receive payments for more than a third (37%) of Canadian gig workers and more than three weeks for more than one in ten (16%). One in four (25%) cite the fees associated with payment methods used by employers as a key pain point. Getting paid by cheque is cited as a key frustration by one in five (20%) gig workers.

Majority of gig workers would use real-time payments and request-to-pay: When asked about the opportunity to use real-time payments (the ability to transfer money from one bank account to another bank account instantly, in which the money sent appears in the destination bank account within fractions of a second right after the transaction has been sent), 68% of gig workers said they would likely choose to use this for payment when it is available. Similarly, when asked about the opportunity to use request-to-pay, 63% of gig workers would likely use this method if available. Request-to-pay is a service that allows individuals or businesses wishing to receive a payment to send an electronic request for that payment to the individual or business owing that payment, which the payer can pay in full, pay in part, or decline to pay.

Gig workers tend to be self-employed (40%): A disproportionately high number of gig workers are also self-employed (40%) when it comes to their other source of income, compared to that of the total Canadian population (7%). This compares to 12% who are employed and 4% who are retired.

Canadian gig workers skew towards younger males living in urban areas; more than one in four are newcomers to Canada: The number of gig workers who are female and older has returned to pre-pandemic levels (39% of gig workers are female compared to 61% who are male). When it comes to the average age of Canadian gig workers, 43% are between 18 to 34 years old, 29% are between 35 to 54 years old, and 28% are over 55 years old. Around one in three (30%) of gig workers have worked in the gig economy for one year or less, 37% for one to three years, 24% for four to five years, and 9% for over five years. More than one in four gig workers (27%) are newcomers to Canada and send money internationally on a regular basis (33%); 27% say they send money internationally occasionally.

Gig work primarily considered as a part-time and short-term employment venture to supplement income: Most gig workers are not looking to stay working in the gig economy on a long-term basis. The majority of gig workers participate part-time (82%) and have been performing gig work for three years or less (67%). The majority of gig workers use the money they earn to supplement their income (65%). When it comes to the duration that Canadians have been working in the gig economy, 30% report it is less than a year; 37% at one to three years; 24% at four to five years; and 9% more than five years.

Main motivation to work in the gig economy is to save up extra money for 42% of workers: This suggests they have a specific savings goal in mind (e.g., saving for their education, upcoming vacation, a special home project, etc.). Once that savings goal is achieved, they may choose to leave the gig workforce, or it is possible they will work towards a new saving goal. Other reasons Canadians participate in the gig economy include:

  • Being able to control their own schedule (37%)
  • To cover gaps or changes in income (36%)
  • For fun or something to do in their spare time (32%)
  • To enable them to be their own boss (31%)
  • As there are not many job opportunities in the area they live (18%)

Food and grocery deliveries, followed by household tasks and driving services are the most prevalent types of gig work obtained using online platforms or mobile apps. A breakdown of services provided by Canadian gig workers include:

  • Restaurant deliveries, such as DoorDash, UberEats (30%)
  • Shopping for or delivery of groceries/ household items, such as Instacart (29%)
  • Household tasks like cleaning, furniture assembly and errands, such as TaskRabbit (24%)
  • Using a personal car for package deliveries, such as Amazon Flex (15%)
  • Driver for ride-hailing, such as Uber or Lyft (14%)

About the study

The online study was conducted by Leger, between February 27 and March 10, 2023, among a nationally representative sample of 1,501 Canadians, as part of Payments Canada’s Payment Behaviour Tracker survey. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

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