The dark side of the side hustle

Many people with a side earner are doing so out of desperation, not passion.

Having a second job is an increasingly common occurrence in the UK. 

According to the latest labour market report from the Office for National Statistics, there are now more than 1.1 million people across the nation who have more than one income stream.

A big contributor in the growth of the second job has been the so-called ‘gig economy’.

There are plenty of people who don’t find the traditional 9-5 appealing, and what more control over precisely when they work and how much work they take on. 

A decent chunk of those second jobbers will be people who are tapping into the gig economy to earn some extra money on the side, for example as an Uber driver or selling some other skill that they have on a freelance basis.

And while the gig economy has opened up a host of opportunities for people to top up their incomes through these second job side hustles, it would be a mistake to view the growth of the second job as an undoubted good thing.

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A nice little earner on the side

Part of the problem is the way that we talk about these jobs, referring to them as a 'side hustle' or a nice little earner on the side.

And for some people that’s accurate ‒ it’s a chance for them to earn some cash from a passion or a hubby, to supplement their existing salary. They are doing something they enjoy and getting paid for it to boot, so it’s all good.

Who knows, at some point that hobby might lead into a career?

But let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that everyone, or even the majority of people, who has a little revenue stream on the side is doing it out of their love for it.

Money’s too tight to mention

It’s been a rough time for incomes in the UK in recent years. 

Sure, the Office for National Statistics has just confirmed that wage growth in the year to June was 3.9%, an 11-year high, but it’s worth remembering that this comes off the back of years and years of stalling growth.

And that has meant that money has been awfully tight for huge numbers of people up and down the country.

A study last year from OnePoll suggested that more than four in ten Brits struggle to make ends meet each month, while the latest stats from The Money Charity show that the average debt per adult in the UK comes to £31,099, around 111% of average earnings.

Given the increasingly concerned warnings about debt coming out of the Bank of England, it’s pretty clear that there are significant numbers of people whose finances are stretched to breaking point. 

That’s why the growth of the second job is something we need to watch carefully.

There are an awful lot of people who take on these side projects because their main job simply isn’t paying them enough to cover the necessities. They aren’t doing it for fun or a laugh, they are doing it to survive. 

And the fact that for such a significant number of people a single job isn’t enough to cover their costs should be a real cause for concern, particularly with the economic jolt we have on the way with our exit from the EU.

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Women and second jobs

It’s notable that when it comes to the rise in second jobs, it’s largely falling on women.

In the last quarter, the number of women with second jobs rocketed by 23,000 to hit a total of 671,000. With men, the rise was far more modest ‒ a growth of just 3,000 to a total of 466,000.

The ONS very diplomatically suggests that the fact the second job market is “dominated” by women “may be partly due to women earning less than men”.

I think the ONS might be onto something there, you know. It’s not just the obvious issue with the gender pay gap though, but the additional responsibilities that more often fall onto the shoulders of women who want to work, such as handling the school run or caring for older relatives.

These responsibilities aren’t conducive to a 9-5 either ‒ if they want to work, they have to fit it in during those small slots when they aren’t looking after loved ones. 

It’s fantastic that we now have ways for people to turn their hobbies and passions into a second income stream ‒ Etsy alone has rescued me repeatedly when desperately searching for birthday presents for my wife, and a huge number of the people selling craftwork on there are doing it as a sideline.

But while we celebrate the fact that people now can find additional revenue streams, let’s not overlook that plenty of people are forced to turn wherever they can in order to get a little bit more cash just to pay the bills.

Worried what would happen if you were to lose your job? Compare income protection policies on Active Quote.

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