A number of reasons are most often cited, all of which play a part:
The recession economy post-2008 saw many young engineers entering the workforce being unable to find full time employment in their career of choice, or seeing long-time employees being stripped of benefits or laid off altogether. Being their early introduction to the professional working world, this resulted in the understanding that having full-time employment with a company isn’t the guarantee of career stability and success it was in their parents’ generation.
A decade later, “We now have a generation of workers who never had full-time jobs,” said Can Erbil, a labor market expert and professor of economics at Boston College, in an article by Hollister staffing. “That is not the exception, but more the norm for them.”
Because this entire segment of the young engineering workforce started their careers with the need to find alternate ways to earn a living, such as freelancing, these engineers no longer think that the best and only employment option is being employed by a company.
Flexibility and Balance
Having the flexibility to optimize their work-life balance by deciding how and when they want to work, and what they want to work on, has become a deciding factor for many engineers. The overall movement towards remote working and cloud collaboration has only made this an easier and more viable option.
The cost of living is rising, and workers have families to support. When a raise or full-time employment isn’t on offer when they need one, turning to freelance work on the side is a natural outcome—and often a necessary one.