UK side hustle economy worth £346 billion

28 September 2021 3 min. read
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Amid lockdown, many people looked to kill time or keep in a positive mindset by taking up new hobbies – developing an array of additional skills in the process. As the country’s pandemic support measures end, a new survey has found that these new skills are proving crucial to helping people make ends meet.

In April 2021, a study by the Resolution Foundation discovered that UK households had taken huge falls in their income during the pandemic. Among households in which at least one person fell out of work due to Covid-19, 41% of UK households suffered a severe income fall of 25% or more. That was twice the level seen in France on 20%, and significantly higher than in Germany at 28%. UK households were also found to be more likely to have taken on additional debt in response to this.

At the same time, the situation may soon get worse for workers in Britain, as state support for the pandemic comes to an end. Arguably the most prominent Covid-19 scheme was the furlough programme, which was introduced in spring 2020, to stop people being laid off by their employers during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Top 10 skills UK workers have learnt during the pandemic

It applies across the UK, with the government initially paying 80% of the wages of people who could not work, or whose employers could no longer afford to pay them – up to a monthly limit of £2,500. At its peak 8.9 million people were on furlough; while the latest figure has 1.9 million workers still on it. This has led some to speculate that the UK is on the brink of an employment crisis, with many firms set to lay off workers to cut expenses after furlough ends.

In this context, the skills learned by UK residents during lockdown are becoming ever more important. As they look to keep the wolf from the door, a poll of 2,000 people in the UK from Airtasker has revealed a staggering growth in people choosing to take on side hustles to supplement –or even replace – their full-time income. 

Without access to restaurants or cafes for their dining needs, during the stay-at-home orders of the last two years, 37% of workers learned to bake or cook. Meanwhile, while no access to external help, a further 29% brushed up on administrative skills, and 23% learned how to repair appliances. A number of other skills also saw a resurgence among the public as a result of their being kept home.

Now, those skills are being put to use, with 46% of UK residents making a second income via so-called ‘side-hustles.’ According to Airtasker, putting their new abilities to work helps earn an average of £274 extra per week to recover lost income following the pandemic; and the firm estimates that the side-hustle economy is now worth around £346 billion as a result.

Tim Fung, Co-founder & CEO at Airtasker, said, “The global pandemic has made many of us rethink our lifestyle and what’s important to us, so it’s great to see so many Brits learning new skills – whether it’s been to pursue a passion or hobby, diversify their skillset or to further their career development… The rise in portfolio and skills-based working will continue in a post-Covid world.”

Airtasker is a community marketplace to connect people who need work done with individuals willing and able to do it. The firm has seen the jump in side-hustling first hand, then, and Airtasker data reveals that in the past six months nearly 10,500 people in the UK joined the Airtasker community, with worker registrations up 369% in July, compared to February 2021. As the furlough scheme ends, it predicts more Brits will join the flexible labour economy.