As the cost of living continues to rise, a new report shows that more than half of workers in the UK’s gig economy are paid less than the minimum wage.
The first study of its kind, led by the University of Bristol, found that 52% of gig workers doing jobs ranging from data entry to food delivery were earning less than minimum wage. On average, respondents were earning £8.97 an hour – about 15% less than the current UK minimum wage, which rose to £10.42 this month.
More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents also experienced work-related insecurity and anxiety.
Lead author Dr Alex Wood, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management and the Future of Work at the University of Bristol Business School, said: “The findings highlight that working in the UK gig economy often involves low pay, anxiety and stress. Fuel and housing costs remain. On the rise, this group of workers is particularly vulnerable and needs access to adequate wages and better protection.”
Equally concerned, more than a quarter (28%) felt they were risking their health or safety while doing a gig, and a quarter (25%) experienced pain at work.
When asked what would improve their situation, basic rights such as minimum wage rates, vacation and sick pay, and protection from unfair dismissal were sought the most.
Unions and platform councils (similar to job councils that exist in some European countries) to represent their needs and help influence how labor economy platforms operate and influence their working conditions are also on their wish list. More than three-quarters of the respondents believe that the introduction of such bodies will bring immediate benefits.
Dr Wood said: “One of the main factors contributing to low rates of pay is that this work involves spending long periods of time waiting or looking for work while logged into the platform. Not only is the work low paying, but it is also very unsafe And dangerous.
“The self-employed who rely on platforms for their livelihoods are in dire need of worker protections to protect them from the massive power asymmetry that exists in the sector. This clearly calls for an expansion of the current ‘worker’ status to protect them.”
The study included 510 gig economy workers in the UK who were surveyed last year. There was representation from across the sector, half of whom were remote freelancers using platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to take on jobs ranging from data entry to website design. The other half is made up of local drivers who provide food delivery and taxi rides across platforms including Deliveroo and Uber.
More than just a side hustle to earn extra cash, respondents spent an average of 28 hours a week on temporary work, making up 60% of their total earnings.
Respondents overwhelmingly considered their work to be best described as self-employed, and believed that extending employment rights to the self-employed would greatly improve their working lives.
This was the first research to look at the forms desired by voice workers. The findings indicate strong support for European-style co-design where workers’ representatives are consulted and agree to changes affecting working conditions and employment. So job boards in countries like Germany can provide a model for platform boards and groupings in the gig economy to facilitate workers’ participation in decisions that affect their ability to earn a living.
Brendan Burchell, Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Cambridge and co-author of the report, added, “Participants felt strongly that establishing joint reporting mechanisms would allow workers and their representatives to influence platform provider decisions that could immediately improve their working lives.
“These policies include elected bodies of workers’ representatives who agree to all major changes in the platform affecting jobs and working conditions. Our findings underscore the growth potential of trade unions in this sector, with the majority willing to join and even organize such bodies.”
the quote: UK report reveals majority of workers in gig economy are paid less than minimum wage (2023, 10 May), Retrieved 10 May 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-uk-reveals -majority-gig-economy.html
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