Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Down-side to the Gig Economy

Far from providing flexible jobs for complex modern lives, gig economy companies, such as Uber and Deliveroo, increasingly trap workers in a precarious existence where they need to devote ever-more time to the platform in order to remain financially stable, a new report from digital thinktank Doteveryone says.

The problems identified by the thinktank fall into three categories: a lack of financial security, a loss of dignity at work, and the inability to progress in a career or train to leave it.

Workers highlight that the low rates of pay mean flexibility is often moot because the only way to earn enough to live is to work longer than full-time. “If you want to get the money you’ve got to be available seven days a week,” said a London-based handyman.

Working for any of the platforms carries hidden costs, the report details. 

One Uber driver says: “I do 60 hours, I make £750. But then you have to deduct expenses, around £150 on fuel. I can take out £600 but then you pay insurance, VAT for cars. It’s been four weeks where I’ve made no more than £400. You’re just managing your expenses and taking £150-£200 home.”

“I did in the beginning write emails – long emails – pointing out ways the platform could work better for workers,” the report quotes a 22-year-old courier for a delivery platform as saying. “But I realised that they don’t care about that. If you make any issues for them, they’ll just fire you or find a way to stop giving you work.”

Wasted knowledge plays into the third problem: an inability to see a way out of the flexible life. “I don’t know what comes next as I can’t keep working gigs as I can’t get a new car when this one dies,” said a 42-year-old driver from Stoke-on-Trent. “And I don’t have time to research alternative careers or go to the gym – sometimes I’m sitting here waiting for a job for an hour and a half!”

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