For example :

Going freelance nowadays is a path many designers and developers take, not only because of job vacancies being on the low side, but also because there are some clear advantages to it.

So what is the meaning of being on the low side?

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    on the low side is a casual, colloquial way of saying "relatively few". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 7 '15 at 12:20
  • @TRomano: Indeed. But relatively is very important there. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 7 '15 at 16:29

It is idiomatic, alluding to reading a meter for the quantity being measured. Imagine there was a gauge like a fuel gauge in a car that measured the number of job vacancies, and the gauge included a shaded area where there were the "right" number of job vacancies. "On the low side" would suggest that the gauge is at, or slightly below, the shaded area. There is an acceptable range, which has two sides, and the quantity is at the low side. It implies that there are fewer that would be desirable, but not necessarily too few.

"On the high side" can be used similarly to mean that there are more of something than would be desirable, but not so much as to be dangerous or incorrect.

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It means that there aren't a lot of full time jobs.

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  • 1
    So "being on the low side" means that there is a little bit of something? – Mostafa 36a2 Aug 7 '15 at 10:16
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    @Mostafa36a2 yes. – SolarLunix Aug 7 '15 at 10:16
  • @Mostafa 36a2: Not really. It means more accurately described as low rather than high. If your coal delivery was [a bit] on the low side, that doesn't mean you only got a little bit of coal - it means you got a little bit less than you ordered. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 7 '15 at 16:27
  • I'd say a substantially lower amount than desired or expected. If rain has been on the low side, you may be gearing up for a drought. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 7 '15 at 17:47
  • If it were less than substantial, we'd say "a bit on the low side" or "a little on the low side". But unqualified, it's substantial. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 7 '15 at 17:53

Idiomatic on the low side alludes to not being on the "opposite" side, but unless specifically modified by an intensifier such as well on the high side it normally means just slightly more XXX than [not] XXX. Thus, on the expensive side implies somewhat expensive, but not ruinously so.

So if you tell the waiter that your pea and ham soup is on the salty side he'll probably just offer you a glass of water (he won't assume you're complaining that it's too salty to eat at all).

Another related idiomatically common use of this type of side is...

Don't be so pessimistic! Why don't you look on the bright side?

...where the usage always implies Be optimistic rather than pessimistic.

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