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The need for a flexible workforce has remained high

The need for a flexible workforce has remained high

While global unemployment reached historic highs throughout the last two years of the pandemic, freelancers as a whole appear to have weathered the disruptions relatively well.

The overall share of freelancers grew with COVID-19, as some workers were pushed to find alternatives to traditional work and others were pulled by the newly available opportunities to work remotely. Upwork reports that 12% of the workforce started freelancing in 2020.

Despite the surge of new competition, our survey indicates that demand remained high. Since the start of the pandemic, a large majority saw either an increase or no change in demand, with less than a quarter of survey respondents reporting a reduction.

The impact of COVID-19 is even more pronounced when it comes to rates commanded by freelancers. As many as 40% reported higher post-pandemic rates, while only 12% saw rates decline.

While the industry as a whole was able to persevere, demand for freelance work shifted unevenly across different sets of skills. Fields that saw particularly higher demand include programming and finance, while customer support exhibited the most significant decline.

Waves of younger people

As waves of younger people finished their full-time education over the last couple of years, and with the job market hit hard by the pandemic, it is not surprising to see that the surge in freelancing popularity and demand particularly benefited
younger workers.

More seasoned freelancers, however, claim to have experienced a somewhat of a slowdown in demand, and those over 65 experienced the most dramatic decline. Broken down by region, we can see that the younger age groups make up an overwhelming majority of the freelancer market in Asia and Africa. and in almost all regions worldwide, the largest age group is the 25-34 bracket, closely followed by the 19-24 age group.