Over-60s Do Better As Freelancers

10 Jun 2021 | 02.33 pm

Over-60s Do Better As Freelancers

TCD study of ‘project economy’

10 Jun 2021 | 02.33 pm

Independent contractors generally earn 58% more than equivalent employees and average job satisfaction levels of 80%, according to a study from Trinity Business School.

The research, undertaken with Contracting PLUS, is billed as Ireland’s first independent study into the country’s ‘project economy’.

The study reveals that alongside over-60s earning more than any other age group in the sector, and the gender pay gap being 17% less than the national average, freelancers have better job satisfaction and earn more than those in long-term employment.

Those doing specifically project-based work – which the researchers say constitutes around three-quarters of the contractor workforce – earned on average 70% more than equivalent employees. The authors also found that confidence levels among freelancers remains high in the face of Covid-19, with 64% believing the sector would expand in the next three to five years.

• Download Ireland’s Project Economy report

The research was carried out by the business school’s Professor Andrew Burke, Dr Na Fu and Tam Nguyen.

Burke commented: “Freelancing seems to provide some way out of the dilemma where, despite a pension funding crisis where we need people to work later in life, older workers face discrimination in the employment sector. This problem does not carry over to the project economy. 

“Experience is highly valued in the high-skilled independent contractor market where older workers earn more than their younger counterparts. In fact we find that workers who are over 60 years old secure the highest day rates and have the highest annual earning of any age group. 

“This is not only a great economic gain but we also find that these workers also have high job satisfaction.  This shows that high-skilled freelancers in the pension age zone can find a life-fulfilling and financially valuable career at a time in their life when most employees are often being let go by employers.

“We need to better understand, guide and harness the value added that this project economy can generate. This research is a step towards this goal. It will also better inform both contractors and policy makers on best practice, opportunities, threats and relative performance of the professional contracting sector in Ireland.”

Associate professor Na Fu added: “This is the first study about professional contractors, a key component in the Irish workforce. Overall, the findings are positive in terms of pay, work satisfaction, and well-being.

“Some challenges faced by this professional and knowledge-intensive group are also noteworthy. They include the lack of opportunity to voice, network, and collaborate with others. Therefore a synthesis of people management policies, practices, and workers’ voice is needed in the future to enable a productive, inclusive, and sustainable workplace for everyone.”

Photo: Prof. Andrew Burke (right) and Jimmy Sheehan

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