HR Strange But True

Not So Fast Millennials; Boomers and Gen Xers Have You Beat in the Gig Economy

There are so many articles out there highlighting the pros and cons of the Millennial generation, but this isn’t one of them. When you think of the gig economy, what comes to mind? Is it a tech start-up, filled with bright-eyed college graduates starting their careers? Or seasoned workers looking for a more flexible schedule? If you answered the latter, you win!freelance

Sorry, you don’t actually win anything … except the knowledge that you were right. So, who, exactly, makes up the gig or freelance economy? A new survey from LinkedIn tried to uncover this answer by polling 4,000 members of the LinkedIn ProFinder marketplace for freelance workers. The ProFinder marketplace is composed of almost 75% full-time, freelancing professionals, so this was the perfect place to figure out who makes up this niche group.

According to the LinkedIn survey, three out of four respondents aged 41 or older are freelancers, making the gig economy primarily dominated by Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. According to a similar PwC report, 65% of freelance workers are over the age of 50, while only 33% are aged 25 to 34. PwC researchers claim: “The desire to work independently actually goes up with age … Those ages 50 and older are roughly two times more likely to want to work independently than those ages 18–34.”

The LinkedIn survey also uncovered some surprising facts surrounding the freelance economy. For example, when it comes to building and maintaining a robust network of freelance contacts, 43% of Millennials find it hard to stay in touch with their network, while only 31% of Boomers and Gen Xers report having difficulty.

Older freelance workers report having more word-of-mouth contacts that help them land gigs. According to Fast Company, having older contacts “makes for professional networks featuring people who wield more influence and decision-making power—including the power to hire contractors.”

A more startling fact the survey uncovered was Boomers and Gen Xers say that age discrimination at their former corporate jobs also led them to finding roles in the gig economy. Age discrimination is forming the gig economy in two ways, according to Fast Company.

Fast Company says, “First, older employees (who generally earn more money) might make for more enticing layoff targets for employers. And second, if older workers are experiencing age-based discrimination in the workplace, it isn’t a leap to suspect that they’re being discriminated against during the hiring process as well, making it tougher for them to find work—and incentivizing them to pursue freelance opportunities.”

As all seasoned HR professionals should know, discrimination based on any protected class or characteristic is illegal. However, freelance workers and independent contractors aren’t protected by these federal laws, which makes the ability to pick and choose particular jobs all the more enticing to all gig economy workers. When the contract runs out, he or she does not have to go back to that company if they do not chose to do so, which can’t be said for normal 9-to-5, full-time employees.

With all that being said, the next time you hear something about Millennials being so great, keep in mind, they aren’t that great at the gig economy, at least not yet. It will be interesting to see if Millennials will follow in the footsteps of the older generations, as they start being replaced with younger workers.

Melissa BlazejakMelissa Blazejak is a Senior Web Content Editor at BLR. She has written articles for and the HR Daily Advisor websites and is responsible for the day-to-day management of and She has been at BLR since 2014. She graduated with a BA of Science, specializing in Communication, from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2008. Most recently, she graduated in 2014 with a MS of Educational Technology.