Gig Work After Retirement

After retirement, some older workers are turning to gig work to keep busy and sharp, as a lifeline, or as a last resort. So reports Rest of World who spoke to 50 older workers worldwide.

Most gig workers globally are relatively young: Research published in 2021 by the International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency focused on improving working conditions, puts the average age for delivery workers at 29 and the average age for ride-hailing drivers at 36. But older individuals are turning to gig work, and their numbers are expected to grow in the coming years.

For example, a man in São Paulo drives people at least 12 hours a day, and at 62, he doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon. He makes roughly 4000 reais ($790) per month after paying off all expenses; it is now his household’s only income. In a country where the monthly minimum wage is 1,412 reais ($273), it’s a good income.

gig work
An unretired gig worker working in a car driven by an unretired gig worker.

I wrote about gig work and "unretirement" on this blog five years ago, and started writing about it 9 years ago on another blog when I decided to do it myself.

The global population of people 65 or older is expected to double by 2050, surpassing 1.6 billion, according to the U.N. At the same time, family units worldwide are transforming, often requiring older people to support themselves for longer. Not all gig workers do it full-time, and for many people (especially younger workers) it supplements other work.

In America, things are different but the trend is still evident. Over the last two decades, the share of the workforce aged 55 or older almost doubled and the government is looking at labor trends like this. By 2028, over a quarter of the workforce will be 55 or older. Inflation has been a factor in forcing retirees back to work. 43 percent of those considering returning to work are doing so because of inflation. One report identifies that older Americans are increasingly turning to the gig economy to supplement their incomes and savings due to its flexibility. Nearly 1 in 3 independent or “gig” workers are over age 55.


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