HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureLayoffs and AI fears push UK’s ‘Generation Z’ towards self made careers and side hustles 

Layoffs and AI fears push UK’s ‘Generation Z’ towards self made careers and side hustles 

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74% of those considering a freelance or self-employed career are thinking more about this compared to this time last year.

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Amid continued job instability in 2024, new UK data reveals that the majority (69%) of 16-26 year olds are considering or already have careers in freelancing, self employment and side hustles over full-time employment.

According to a study of 3,016 UK-based 16-26 year olds conducted in late January 2024, of those considering a freelance or self-employed career, 59% plan to do so in the next year, including 18% that plan to do so in the next two months.

60% of respondents are already in full or part time employment, suggesting there could be a mass exodus away from traditional employment.

A further 25% are currently students, suggesting that they will enter the workforce as self-employed and freelancers, shunning the traditional career path entirely. 

The survey conducted by Fiverr reveals that ‘Generation Z’ cite multiple reasons for considering self-made careers, from building new skills to being their own boss. Yet, findings also suggest their desire to take back control amidst a job environment that is unpredictable and fast-evolving.

Amongst key reasons for moving away from full-time employment: 

  • Nearly a third (29%) ‘less chance of being laid off or replaced by AI’
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) respondents cite self-employed and freelance careers as more stable than full time employment
  • 17% believe that UK companies have no loyalty to employees 

Generation Z strive to take back control of their careers

The study, which is in its second year, highlights how layoffs, flexibility, and AI are drastically shaping the way Generation Z work and think about their careers.

According to the findings, 74% of those considering a freelance or self-employed career are thinking more about this compared to this time last year.

Many factors for considering freelance or self-employed careers in 2023 also remain the same in 2024. Flexible working hours, ‘being my own boss’ and ‘increasing my income’ were key factors in 2023 and 2024. 

However this year, the reasons for choosing this career path are much more likely to be driven by the state of the full-time job market, with key drivers as follows:

  • Nearly a third (31%) say they are worried about the cost of living 
  • Over 1 in 10 (12%) have already been laid off or are afraid they will be

“The youngest members of today’s workforce, Gen-Zers, have faced nothing but hurdles – a global pandemic and unprecedented development in technology,” says said Gali Arnon, Fiverr’s Chief Business Officer.

“Now, in the face of layoffs and the implementation of AI across the corporate world, Gen Z workers are relying on themselves for the stability that they need to pursue their career ambitions by choosing freelancing and self employment,”

Arnon notes that not only does freelancing and self employment offer a stable path for the younger generation “to be their own boss” or to own their own business, but it also allows for Gen Z to have total autonomy over their own lives.

Additional trends among the younger workforce

The survey was conducted in partnership with Censuswide among a sample of 10,033 Gen Z (defined as those aged 16-26) across the UK, US, Germany, and France, including over 3,000 workers in the UK.

The data was collected between January 26, 2024 and January 30, 2024.

Additional data points within the survey shows that remote work less important to Generation Z than last year. Only 22% of 16-26 year olds surveyed say a remote working policy would influence their job decisions. This figure is decreasing, last year 24% felt this way – also a low percentage

Instead, flexible hours are deemed more important, with 39% saying this will influence their job decisions and 1 in 4 also saying flexible working structures are a factor in choosing to be self employed or freelance

Generation Z are also divided on the role of university degree. Only 35% believe a university degree is required for a successful and fulfilling career. A further 36% believe that a successful and fulfilling career is achievable without a degree or with other formal qualifications (other than a degree) e.g. an apprenticeship  

In terms of top priorities, comfort and financial security are well and truly front of mind. 45% of Generation Z respondents desire to be financially comfortable as part of their larger career ambition; 18% want to retire early. 

Similarly, around a quarter (24%) want to own their own business while 12% want to freelance for their entire careers. Nearly 29% of respondents want to travel for work and work from wherever they want. 

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