Spiralling Gig Economy Engages 4.4m Workers Each Week

The number of people working for gig economy platforms has near-tripled in England and Wales over the past five years, according to new research published by the TUC today.  This amounts to 4.4 million people working for gig economy platforms at least once a week.  In addition, almost a quarter (22.6%) of workers have done platform work at some point, up from one in 10 (11.5%) in 2016.

The research – carried out by the University of Hertfordshire with fieldwork and data collection by BritainThinks – shows that three in 20 (14.7%) working adults surveyed now work via gig economy platforms at least once a week, compared to around one in 20 (5.8%) in 2016 and just over two in 20 (11.8%) in 2019.

The overwhelming majority of workers use platform work to supplement other forms of income, reflecting that gig workers are increasingly likely to patch together a living from multiple different sources. This can lead to exceptionally long working days.

Over the past five years, the proportion of the working population carrying out platform work at least once a week has:

  • More than quadrupled in delivery/driving (from 1.9% in 2016, to 8.9% in 2021).
  • More than doubled in household services (from 3.2% in 2016 to 7.9% in 2021).
  • Almost tripled in errand running (from 2.3% in 2016 to 6.2% in 2021).
  • More than doubled in remote online digital tasks (from 4.9% in 2016 to 11.9% in 2021).

The union body warns that this “spiralling” gig economy will lead to more workers on low pay and experiencing poor conditions.

The TUC says the government must stop letting gig economy platforms off the hook – and is calling for workers to have greater trade union and individual rights including:

  • A New Zealand-style right of access to workplaces for unions, including a digital right of access, to enable them to talk to workers about what membership can offer them.
  • A new ‘worker’ definition that covers all existing employees and workers and gives them the full range of legal rights.
  • A ban on zero hours contracts, by giving workers the rights to a contract reflecting their normal hours of work and adequate notice of shifts.

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