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6 Need-to-Know Statistics About the Side Hustle Debate

6 need-to-know statistics about the side hustle debate

The idea of a side hustle being a bad thing has been blowing up on social media. More so in the last week than I have ever seen. Many claim the culture of side hustles is toxic. That it’s a play put in by big corporations to pay you as little as possible. While those that are in favour claim that if it’s done right it is the only thing to do. A simple and healthy way to make you and your family extra money while doing something you love.

So what are the arguments of both sides? And where do I stand? Here’s where…

Just for some examples, here are some tweets I have seen recently from both sides of the argument:



So What’s the Big Deal with Side Hustles?

Essentially there are two sides to the argument. One side claims that side hustles are a way for you to do what you want with your time while making money. The other claims that side hustles shouldn’t be necessary as your full-time job should pay you all that you need. Where it breaks down is a different definition of what a side hustle is.

What is a Side Hustle?

A side hustle, in its purest form, is a passion you have in your free time that makes you money. Whether that be blogging, YouTube, creating, or selling something. If it is something you enjoy doing, makes you money, and is done in your free time, then it’s a side hustle. At least that is the definition that most people know. But that is also where the breakdown happens.

Cambridge Dictionary definition of a side hustle

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a side hustle (or side gig) is “a piece of work or a job that you get paid for doing in addition to your main job.” this means an additional part-time job you have counts as a side hustle, in addition to your passions or free time fun activities.

Why the Hate on Side Hustles?

Because of the broad definition and understanding of side hustles, it is interpreted in different ways by everyone. For those against the idea of a side hustle it is usually because, in their mind, or experience, it leads to overworking, and exhaustion. All just for people to survive. Essentially they see a side hustle as a necessity to survive since working one job isn’t enough to live on.

In their minds, one job should be more than enough to sustain you. You shouldn’t need a second, third, or fourth job to survive. Instead, you should be able to have that time to do whatever you want, without the need to worry about money.

Why the Love of Side Hustles?

To look at the other side many encourage and swear by side hustles. To them, it is doing something you love, and then conveniently making money while doing it. So why wouldn’t you? It also gives them a chance to “not be lazy” and to better their lives in the long term. for many in the pro side hustle camp, they do their side hustle in the hopes that it turns into their full-time job.

In their minds, while one job is enough to live on and get by, that isn’t enough. They are doing their side hustle activities in their free time anyway since it’s something they love. So why not make money at it? Why not better your lifestyle?

The Stats Behind the Arguments

A lot of the arguments from both sides seem to be focussed on largely emotional reasons. Or a different definition of what a side hustle is. So I want to present some facts from both sides, to help anyone on the fence learn more, and possibly decide if a side hustle is the best choice for them.

All statistics will be coming from Statistics Canada, as I’m Canadian. For American versions of the same statistics, you will have to check with your local government statistical bodies. However, from the small amount of comparison I have done the stats seem about the same.

Average Hours Worked Per Week

The first statistic that should be noted to give an impression of how side hustles have affected our lives is the average number of hours worked per week. For this statistic, I used the data from 2010 to 2020, for those aged between 25 and 54 (what StatsCan considers the working class). This does have the unfortunate effect of eliminating both students and retirees from the statistics but should serve as a good baseline for comparison.

Stats on hours worked at a job stats canada
Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0043-01 Average usual and actual hours worked in a reference week by type of work (full- and part-time), annual

As we can see, statistically the number of hours worked across both sexes, per work has remained relatively constant over the past 10 years, with only a small dip in 2020 (likely because of COVID). This holds for those with full-time jobs and part-time jobs.

Holding Multiple Jobs

So the hours have stayed consistent, but what about the number of people holding multiple jobs. After all, if the number of hours worked at a part-time job hasn’t increased but more people now hold two jobs, that would be a sign of negative change caused by the need for side hustles.

Porportion of workers holding more than one job
Statistics Canada. Multiple jobholders in Canada.

This stat is partially true. In general, since 2010 (even since the first spike in 1989) more and more people are holding multiple jobs. In particular women, with almost 7% of all women in Canada having multiple jobs, while about 5% of men do.

However, as noted on this Statistics Canada page most multiple jobholders work full time at their main job (65.7%), and only work an average of 10 extra hours per week. So that’s the equivalent of one full-time job and one part-time job.

Changes in Income

An argument often used by the pro-side hustle side of the argument is that because of side hustles the average person can make more income than ever before. Putting them in a better spot, with more money. but that shows statistically to be incorrect, or irrelevant.

Average Employment Income for Canada
Statistics Canada. Income of individuals by age group, sex and income source, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas

Most Canadians earned slightly more at their main job over the last 10 years. Approximately $2,800 more per year to be specific, while in the same time frame self-employment income declined. Overall self-employment income for individuals dropped from $22,800 to $19,100, about $3,700 less per year. Now, this may be a combination of increased ability to accumulate write-offs. It may be because large side hustle markets are becoming more saturated. But what it doesn’t show is that by everyone having side hustles they make more money overall.

Average Self-Employment Income for Canada
Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0239-01 Income of individuals by age group, sex and income source, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas

Reasons for Side Hustles

One of the many arguments I hear from pro-side hustlers is the benefits of side hustles, outside of the money. While those that are anti-side hustle often sight the pressure to side hustle as a burden or extra stress. But according to Statistics Canada that simply isn’t the case. When asked about the primary reason individuals chose to be self-employed the number one answer that 33.5% of people gave was “Independence, freedom, being one’s boss”. All while only 3.2% of people claimed it was because they needed the additional income.

Reasons for being self-employed canada 2018
Statistics Canada. Self-employed Canadians: Who and Why?

More and More Common

One point that both sides can agree on is that self-employment, side hustles, and gigs are becoming more and more common. While data isn’t yet available for 2020, where we will surely see a spike due to circumstances arising from COVID-19 until 2019 even that fact wasn’t correct. Canada saw a large spike in unemployment from the 1980s through to the late-1990s, with it levelling off around the year 2000. however, since then the amount of self-employed individuals has stayed relatively consistent at approximately 15.5%.

Self -employment rate of workers Canada
Statistics Canada. Self-employed Canadians: Who and Why?

Everyone’s Favourite Side Hustle, AKA The Gig Economy

When referring to side hustles people from both sides love to refer to the gig economy and the rise of ride-sharing and food delivery apps. After all, they are on the largest side hustles out there, as people use them more and more every day. And that is true, as almost 40% of millennials are part of the gig economy. However, even with such high involvement by the millennial generation, a study conducted by StatsCan found that only about 8.2% of workers were involved in the Gig Economy. And of that 8.2%, only 51.4% had another T4 job. Meaning that despite the growth of the gig economy only about 4% of people have a “side hustle”

Number of gig workers with another job canada
Statistics Canada. Measuring the Gig Economy in Canada Using Administrative Data

So What does it All Mean?

This article can be a lot to take in. A lot of charts and graphs and facts. But overall it breaks down into one simple point. Side hustles, and the gig economy surrounding them, are what you make them. They can be terrible, time-consuming endeavours that surround your whole life. They can also be occasional, free time-driven passions that happen to bring in money, and everything in-between.

Throughout the last half-decade, the term side hustle has become more and more prevalent, both for good and for bad. And as more modern statistics come out about people’s involvement and its effect on our world it will be interesting to look back on this.

What can be done?

As the world changes and side hustles show that they’re here to stay (or at least not go away) I think, more than there needs to be a side of the debate chosen the term needs to be better defined. Is a side hustle a way to make a little extra money doing something you love? Or is it an effect of lower wages and longer hours, forcing people to have two jobs? These are questions we have to answer as a society.

I stand on the side of side hustles being a small amount of extra income. But only if you keep it that way. If you are earning extra money in your free time doing something you love, then good on you! If you are working an extra 40 hours a week just to earn more money and make ends meet, perhaps we need a different term.

Let me know

Now that you have all of the stats and all of my thoughts, let me know yours! Are you a pro side hustler, or an anti side hustler? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow my social media here!

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