As the cost of living crisis worsens, workers in the gig economy globally are grappling with another threat to their hard-earned wages – the double-edged sword of online reviews. Researchers at Bristol and Oxford Universities have found that gig platform algorithms lack transparency and are highly volatile, leaving workers vulnerable to malicious customers.
Findings revealed most – seven in 10 – gig economy workers were worried about clients providing unfair feedback and negatively affecting their future earnings. So great are their fears that many are undertaking jobs for free to avoid negative reviews impacting their future earnings.
Lead author Dr Alex Wood, a sociologist from the Bristol Business School, said: “It was shocking how workers expressed continuous worry about the potential consequences of receiving a single bad rating from an unfair or malevolent client, and how this could leave them unable to continue making a living.”
The situation is creating a growing trend of ‘reputational insecurity’ in the workforce, where self-employed contract workers are experiencing greater instability and concern about future access to work.
Study co-author Professor Vili Lehdonvirta, from the University of Oxford, added: “Countering these processes of reputational insecurity will not only be an important policy endeavour for improving gig work but also the wider platform economy.”
The study, published in Sociology, found the companies operated without checks and balances to verify the ratings and effective processes to seek redress and corrections were also lacking.