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The Gig Economy and Covid-19: Looking Ahead

Fairwork’s latest report on COVID-19 and the gig economy provides an updated and extended analysis of platforms’ efforts to protect gig workers during the COVID-19 crisis and considers whether these policies could have longer-term implications on working conditions within the global digital economy.

The research has been expanded to include low income and middle-income countries to understand how gig workers have been affected in the absence of government relief schemes, and where platforms have faced a higher uncertainty of continuing their operations due to financial risks.

Key findings

  • Fair Pay: While pay was by far the most important issue for workers, only 10 percent of the platforms provided pay loss compensation. Instead, platforms have tended to deflect responsibility to governments in order to avoid future liabilities.

  • Fair Conditions 1 (Prevention): While contactless delivery was widespread, contactless collection was less available. Also, 60 percent of the platforms claimed to provide PPE but workers often reported problems receiving any of that support.

  • Fair Conditions 2 (Illness): Around half of the platforms were providing some payment for workers who were ill. When government financial relief packages were extended to include gig workers, some platforms shifted their focus on assisting the workers to access these schemes. However, the accessibility of these schemes (both government and platform) remains unknown.

  • Fair Contracts: Most platforms have maintained that their workers are independent contractors and not employees, even while taking on more aspects of the role of an employer, such as sick pay provision.

  • Fair Management: Only a small fraction of platforms guarantee no loss of bonuses or incentive levels despite temporary deactivation of workers.

  • Fair Representation: Gig workers around the world have been striking to demand better working conditions but there is no evidence of any meaningful platform engagement with worker associations and unions coordinating the strikes.

Fairwork recommendations to platforms range from reduction in platform fees, provision of interest-free emergency loans, free testing, accessible sick pay, no temporary or permanent alteration of contracts, accessible communications, and more engagement with workers.


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