How Many Online Workers are There in the World? A Data-Driven Assessment

16 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2021 Last revised: 19 Apr 2021

See all articles by Otto Kässi

Otto Kässi

Etla

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Fabian Stephany

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute; Bruegel; Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society

Date Written: March 23, 2021

Abstract

An unknown number of people around the world are earning income by working through online labour platforms such as Upwork and Amazon Mechanical Turk. We combine data collected from various sources to build a data-driven assessment of the number of such online workers (also known as online freelancers) globally. Our headline estimate is that there are 163 million freelancer profiles registered on online labour platforms globally. Approximately 19 million of them have obtained work through the platform at least once, and 5 million have completed at least 10 projects or earned at least $1000. These numbers suggest a substantial growth from 2015 in registered worker accounts, but much less growth in amount of work completed by workers. Our results indicate that online freelancing represents a non-trivial segment of labour today, but one that is spread thinly across countries and sectors.

Keywords: Gig Work, Online Labour Markets, Platform Economy

JEL Classification: F6, F16, J24, J31, L14, O15, O32

Suggested Citation

Kässi, Otto and Lehdonvirta, Vili and Stephany, Fabian, How Many Online Workers are There in the World? A Data-Driven Assessment (March 23, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3810843 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3810843

Otto Kässi (Contact Author)

Etla ( email )

Lonnrotink. 4 B
FIN-00120 Helsinki, 00120
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.etla.fi

Vili Lehdonvirta

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk

Fabian Stephany

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Bruegel ( email )

Rue de la Charité 33
B-1210 Brussels Belgium, 1210
Belgium

Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society ( email )

Bebelplatz 1 | 10099
Berlin
Germany

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