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New Data Reveals Generation Z’s Shifting Career Landscape Towards Freelancing and Self-Employment

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In light of ongoing job instability, recent UK data indicates a significant inclination among 16-26 year olds towards freelance, self-employed, or side hustle careers over traditional full-time employment.

A study conducted in late January 2024 surveyed 3,016 individuals within this age group, revealing that nearly seven in ten are contemplating or have already embarked on such career paths. Of those considering freelancing or self-employment, a majority plan to transition within the next year, with a notable proportion intending to do so within the next two months. With a significant portion of respondents already engaged in full or part-time employment, a notable shift away from traditional employment models is apparent. Moreover, a quarter are currently students, indicating a propensity to enter the workforce as self-employed or freelancers, diverging from conventional career trajectories.

The research, conducted by Fiverr, sheds light on Generation Z’s motivations for pursuing self-made careers, ranging from skill development to autonomy in decision-making. However, underlying these motivations is a desire to regain control in an unpredictable and rapidly evolving job landscape. Key reasons cited for veering away from full-time employment include a perceived lower risk of layoffs or replacement by AI, stability associated with self-employed and freelance careers, and a perception of diminished loyalty from UK companies towards employees.

The study underscores Generation Z’s concerted efforts to reclaim agency over their careers, particularly in response to layoffs, flexibility demands, and the integration of AI in the corporate sphere. Significantly, a majority of those considering freelance or self-employed careers report increased contemplation compared to the previous year. While familiar factors such as flexible working hours and autonomy remain crucial, concerns about the cost of living and fears of job loss have emerged as prominent drivers in 2024.

Gali Arnon, Chief Business Officer at Fiverr, reflects on the motivations driving Generation Z’s career choices amidst current challenges, stating, “Facing unprecedented hurdles, including a global pandemic and rapid technological advancements, Gen Z workers are gravitating towards freelancing and self-employment for the stability needed to pursue their career aspirations. These paths not only offer autonomy but also empower Gen Z to navigate their professional journeys on their own terms.”

Additional insights from the data reveal a nuanced perspective on remote work among Generation Z, with considerations about the importance of flexible working hours outweighing the influence of remote working policies. Moreover, there is a division regarding the necessity of a university degree, with a significant portion viewing alternative paths, such as apprenticeships, as equally viable.

Ultimately, comfort and financial security emerge as paramount aspirations for Generation Z, with a considerable proportion prioritizing financial stability and aspiring to early retirement. A significant portion harbors ambitions of entrepreneurship, while a substantial portion desires work flexibility and the ability to travel for work.

The findings underscore a dynamic shift in career preferences among Generation Z, reflective of their adaptability and response to evolving job market dynamics.

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