As the number of so called “gig economy” workers grow, a number of states, including New Jersey, have passed laws with the intention of affording them greater protections. The most recent statewide survey from the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll, in conjunction with Handy, a home services referral service, finds opinion divided over whether some of these protections are a good thing, or whether workers should continue to work in the gig economy as independent contractors.

Adults across the Garden State were asked whether part-time and full-time gig workers should be able to remain independent contractors or be reclassified under the law as employees. Gig economy workers were defined as people who use on-demand, application-based platforms for finding work. These workers are considered independent contractors, rather than employees, because they can set their own hours but are not guaranteed certain benefits – like health insurance and paid leave – that may come with being an employee. Gig economy workers include drivers for Uber and Lyft, delivery people for DoorDash, and house cleaners for Handy.

A clear majority would prefer allowing part-time gig workers the freedom to remain independent contractors, with 54 percent endorsing this option. Twenty-four percent favor mandatory reclassifying independent contractors as an employee.

However, when it comes to those who are employed full-time in the gig economy, opinion is more divided. Fewer than half (45%) would prefer the maintenance of independent contractor status and around a third (35%) would like to see full- time workers reclassified as employees.

“Overall, the public seems to like the idea of allowing greater workers autonomy over mandatory reclassification. However, sentiment becomes more divided once the tradeoffs of autonomy versus protections and benefits is considered for those whose entire livelihoods are made in this new economy,” said Krista Jenkins, Director of the FDU Poll. “And, it’s not as if people are weighing in without really knowing what’s at stake. Forty percent say they interact with gig workers at least occasionally.”

“New Jerseyans want what’s best for workers,” said Oisin Hanrahan, CEO of Handy. “They know that any gig economy legislative proposal should have updated protections and benefits for workers, but that legislators also need to respect that some workers simply want to work part time for supplemental income or prefer their independent contractor status. We look forward to using this framework to advance legislation that supports workers and the entire state of New Jersey.”

As for what the public think gig workers need in order for their lives to be improved, the top vote getters include a wage that goes beyond the current minimum of $15 and hour (21%), and providing them access to affordable health insurance (27%). Other options received significantly less support like allowing them to keep 100 percent of their tips (12%), reclassification from independent contractors to employees (8%), access to affordable housing (7%) and improved mass transit (4%).

“Everyone wants the same thing – better wages and more affordable healthcare. The public believes this would do the most to improve the quality of life for gig workers too,” said Jenkins.

Finally, respondents were asked whether newly introduced legislation concerning a portable benefits fund was a good idea for gig workers. Over half (58%) of adults believe gig works should have access to a portable benefits fund, which will allow workers to accrue benefits like family leave and retirement savings in a central account that they can access no matter where they are working. Significantly fewer (20%) do not support gig worker access to this so far hypothetical fund.

Methodology

The survey was conducted by live callers on both landlines and cellular phones between February 12 through February 16, 2020 with a scientifically selected random sample of 805 New Jersey adults, 18 or older. Persons without a telephone could not be included in the random selection process. Respondents within a household are selected by asking randomly for the youngest adult currently available. The interview was conducted in English and included 321 adults reached on a landline phone and 484 adults reached on a cell phone, all acquired through random digit dialing.

The data were weighted to be representative of the non-institutionalized adult population of New Jersey. The weighting balanced sample demographics to target population parameters. The sample is balanced to match parameters for sex, age, education, race/ethnicity, region and phone use. The sex, age, education, race/ethnicity and region parameters were derived from 2017 American Community Survey PUMS data. The phone use parameter was derived from estimates provided by the National Health Interview Survey Early Release Program.[1][2][3]

Weighting was done in two stages. The first stage of weighting corrected for different probabilities of selection associated with the number of adults in each household and each respondent’s telephone usage patterns. This adjustment also accounts for the overlapping landline and cell sample frames and the relative sizes of each frame and each sample. This first stage weight was applied to the entire sample which included all adults.

The second stage of the weighting balanced sample demographics to match target population benchmarks. This weighting was accomplished using SPSSINC RAKE, an SPSS extension module that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables using the GENLOG procedure. Weights were trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results. The use of these weights in statistical analysis ensures that the demographic characteristics of the sample closely approximate the demographic characteristics of the target population.