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Exploring Online and Offline Informal Work

Exploring Online and Offline Informal Work: Findings from the Enterprising and Informal Work Activities (EIWA) Survey

Barbara Robles and Marysol McGee for the Federal Reserve Board

First published December 2016

The growing prevalence of alternative work arrangements has accelerated with the rapidly evolving digital platform transformations in local and global markets (Kenny and Zysman, 2015 and 2016). Although traditional (offline) informal paid work has always been a part of the labor sector (BLS-Contingent Worker Survey, 2005; GAO, 2015 and Katz and Krueger, 2016), the rise of online-enabled paid work activities requires new approaches to measure this growing trend (Farrell and Greig, 2016; Gray et al, 2016; Sundararajan, 2016 and Schor, 2015). In the fourth quarter of 2015, the Federal Reserve Board conducted a nationally representative survey of adults 18 and older to track online and offline income-generating activities as well as their employment status during the six months prior to the surveys. Survey results indicate that 36 percent of respondents undertook informal paid work activities either as a complement to or as a substitute for more traditional and formal work arrangements. We explore the rationale behind respondents’ participation in alternative work arrangements by setting questions that capture participant motives and attitudes towards informal offline and online paid work activities. Sixty-five percent of qualified survey respondents indicate that a main reason for participating in informal work is to earn extra income.

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