A new report published in the Guardian shows that 15% of workers in Great Britain — 4.4 million people — are now employed in the gig economy, or what they call working for “platforms”. These are companies such as Uber, Deliveroo, and parts of the Amazon empire.
The growth in this kind of employment is staggering: 6% of workers in 2016, 12% in 2019, and 15% today.
“[T]he research indicated an especially strong rise in such employment among couriers and those doing other driving work, as well as in errand and odd jobs services. Almost a quarter of workers have done platform work at some point, up from one in 10 in 2016, the study found.
It sounds like an economic benefit for the workers but it has been shown that they often have to work multiple jobs, have low average incomes, and rarely have the financial and security benefits that more regular jobs would offer.
“[P]latforms including Deliveroo, Stuart and Amazon Flex say their workers are independent self-employed contractors without such basic rights.”
“Gig economy platforms are using new technologies to carry out the age-old practice of worker exploitation,” said [Frances] O’Grady [General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress]. “Too often gig workers are denied their rights and are treated like disposable labour.”
In Canada, the situation is similar, with 10% of the workforce in the gig economy. Payment issues seem to dominate the problems here:
“For one in five Canadian gig workers, it currently takes at least a couple of weeks to receive payment after their work is done. Moreover, the gig workers who do get paid on the same day that their contract is done are predominantly paid by cash (59 percent), which creates challenges in terms of traceability.”
It’s a changing world, sure enough. I’m all for individual freedom of choice, for flexibility, for the kind of independence that the gig economy should be able to supply. I do however worry that certain protections we take for granted may be lost in the process, and within a capitalist economy is it hard to see how they can be replaced.
There’s a great and wrenching movie by Ken Loach about the gig economy, Sorry We Missed You.
Will try to find that. Thanks!