Exploring the Gig Economy in Japan: A bank data-driven analysis of food delivery gig workers

Author Name KURODA Sachiko (Faculty Fellow, RIETI) / ONISHI Koichiro (Waseda University)
Creation Date/NO. March 2023 23-E-025
Research Project Research on Diverse Work Styles, Health and Productivity
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This research endeavors to examine the trends that emerged within the Japanese gig economy from 2016 to 2021 by utilizing confidential bank account information obtained from a prominent Japanese megabank. Specifically, this study employs payment records from platform service companies to identify gig workers and subsequently analyzes their characteristics, reasons for starting gig work, and likelihood of continuing to perform gig jobs, with a specific focus on food delivery gig workers.

The key findings of the analysis indicate that the number of food delivery gig workers increased significantly following the first declaration of a state of emergency in April 2020; however, this trend was not as pronounced among non-food delivery gig workers, which suggests that food delivery gig work was a driving force behind the expansion of the gig market during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. Additionally, it is found that the liquidity balance of food delivery gig workers in the month they began gig work was lower than that for those who had never engaged in gig work; moreover, this balance gradually declined over the four months prior to starting gig work. Surprisingly, however, this decline in liquidity before the start of gig work slowed during the post-COVID-19 period. This finding indicates that the increase in gig workers after the COVID-19 pandemic may have been driven by job insecurity and/or an increase in leisure time due to stay-at-home orders and telecommuting, leading to an influx of people with less pronounced drops in liquidity into the gig market. Finally, it was revealed that the probability of continued gig work was not particularly high, with approximately half of the workers being inactive six months after entering the gig market; this suggests that the gig economy can be viewed as a source of temporary income supplementation.