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New study looks indepth at the rise of the On-Demand Economy

Forty-five million Americans, or 22 percent of the adult population, say they have worked or offered services in the On-Demand Economy, while 86.5 million, or 42 percent of the adult population, have used at least one On-Demand Economy service, according to a major national survey developed jointly by Burson-Marsteller, a global strategic communications and public relations firm; The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative; and TIME. The survey was conducted by research firm Penn Schoen Berland.

For purposes of the survey, participants in the On-Demand Economy, which is often called the Sharing Economy, are defined as having offered or purchased at least one of the following: Ride sharing, accommodation sharing, task services, short-term car rental or food/goods delivery. Penn Schoen Berland conducted 3,000 nationally representative online interviews among the general population across the United States from November 16-25, 2015.

The survey – the most in-depth opinion research study of workers and users of the On-Demand Economy ever conducted – is being released at CES 2016 in Las Vegas.

The survey is also featured in the new issue of TIME, and now on Time.com.


  • 51 percent of those who offer services in the On-Demand Economy (offerors) say their financial situation has improved over the past year, compared to 34 percent of the general population; 64 percent of offerors also expect their financial situations to improve in the next year, compared to 47 percent of the general population;
  • 55 percent of offerors are members of a racial or ethnic minority, compared to 34 percent of those who have not offered on-demand services; 51 percent of offerors are under 35, compared to 31 percent of the general population;
  • 71 percent of offerors say working in the industry has been a positive experience; their main motivations include extra income (33 percent), a need for additional income (26 percent), flexibility (25 percent) and independence (25 percent).

While On-Demand Economy offerors express optimism about their economic lives, the survey did uncover concerns, including:

  • 72 percent of workers say they should be given more benefits as part of their job;
  • 68 percent of workers say industry workers lack the financial safety net that other workers have.

Offerors are split over the tradeoffs between independence and job security: Forty-three percent say they prefer the independence of the On-Demand Economy even though it may not have the same job security or access to benefits, while 41 percent say they prefer the security and benefits of working for a traditional company even if it might mean less flexibility.  A narrow plurality of offerors (49 percent) say the On-Demand economy should not be regulated and companies should compete to offer workers fair pay and benefits, even if it means less security, compared to 40 percent who say the government should regulate the sharing economy to guarantee independent contractors the same benefits afforded to full-time workers, even if it means fewer jobs.

“This new survey is the most in-depth study of workers and users of the On-Demand Economy ever conducted,” said Donald A. Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller. “With nearly a quarter of Americans already working in the On-Demand Economy, and more than a third buying its services, it is clear the sector is playing a major role in the growth and direction of the United States.”

While most offerors engage in the On-Demand Economy on a casual basis, one in three offerors (14.4 million Americans) relies more heavily on this economy for income. Thirty-two percent of all offerors agreed with one or more of the following statements: They earn at least 40 percent of their income from the On-Demand Economy, the On-Demand Economy is their primary source of income or they cannot find work at a more traditional company.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • USERS EXPRESS POSITIVE EXPERIENCES, DRIVEN BY FINANCIAL REASONS: Seventy-five percent of Americans who have used one of the On-Demand Economy services report a positive experience, and merely one percent say their experience has been mostly negative. Eighty percent of users say that the industry saves them money and 79 percent believe the industry gives people greater access to things and experiences they would not be able to afford otherwise.
  • OFFERORS SPEND CONSIDERABLE TIME ONLINE, BUT ARE EQUALLY LIKELY TO HAVE PRIVACY CONCERNS: Offerors consider themselves tech savvy (73 percent), yet while 79 percent report using social media apps to stay connected to friends and family, three out of four (77 percent) respondents report having concerns about their privacy.
  • OFFERORS THINK COMPANIES HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO A SOCIAL CONTRACT: In addition to believing they deserve benefits, 62 percent of offerors say employers have an obligation to provide workplace education and training, and 62 percent believe that On-Demand Economy companies should reimburse their workers for some job-related expenses. Yet while most offerors in the On-Demand Economy think the industry should do more for them, 49 percent oppose government regulations requiring the industry to provide the same benefits as full-time workers if it comes at the expense of job security; 40 percent favor government regulation.

Sen.Mark Warner of Virginia and Purdue President Mitch Daniels, former Gov. of Indiana, serve as honorary co-chairs of the Aspen Institute’s new Future of Work Initiative – a year-long nonpartisan effort to identify concrete ways to strengthen the social contract in the midst of sweeping changes in the 21st-century workplace and workforce.

“The last official government survey of the contingent workforce was a decade ago, long before the app-driven, On-Demand Economy had blossomed,” said Daniels. “So, not unusually, Washington is far behind the times in understanding even how many workers and consumers we are talking about, let alone their interests, needs and concerns.”

“Millions of Americans are turning to the On-Demand Economy for greater flexibility and income, but still worry about their financial security,” said Sen. Warner. “As more Americans earn their income from more than one employer, we need a 21st-century social contract that meets their needs.”