Collaborating with gig workers, this report from think tank Doteveryone and funded by Trust for London formulates ideas about how to create better work in the gig economy for those that digital disruption has left on the fringes.
The future of work is happening now and not on some far-off horizon. One in ten Brits takes a job via a digital platform at least once a week. And the services they provide - the almost instantaneous taxi rides, cleaning, manicures or babysitting - are now taken for granted by consumers.
The data-driven innovation that matches customers’ wishes to workers’ capabilities has opened new opportunities for those who already had them. For those with existing skills and financial means, gig work offers flexibility and freedom.
But for those who don’t, the app has become a trap. They have no option but to work gigs, and no way out once they’ve begun.
In this research Doteveryone has listened to those who are in the trap. They told them how gig work strips them of financial security, dignity and any dreams for the future.
They heard from workers how gig work is ‘like quicksand’ - low pay becomes unlivable pay after costs are accounted for - and the promise of flexibility is an illusion when, in reality, workers must be available 24/7 and scrabble for every gig available.
They heard how workers wished they’d be treated ‘like people not robots’ and how management by algorithm strips people of their dignity.
And they heard how people ‘don’t know what comes next’ as the always-on, piecemeal work they do makes it impossible to think or plan for a different future.
The gig economy does not have to be this way. Doteveryone fights for better tech for everyone. They're working to change how tech is made and used so it supports a fair, inclusive and sustainable democratic society.
They propose policy change for the long term and have prototyped best practice for platforms to implement immediately. The recommendations meet the needs of those most disadvantaged, and in doing so they serve everyone.
The Government should develop and enforce a Minimum Gig Wage that accounts for the costs of going gig work.
Platform modification: Platforms should provide greater data transparency to show workers how their earnings and costs fluctuate, and inform customers about how much of the price they pay is split between the worker and the platform.
Companies should create governance structures that give gig workers a voice in the design of the platforms they work for.
Platform modification: In a world where interactions are mediated through an app and often automated or ignored, we propose that workers have access to human interaction to solve their questions or seek redress.
The Government should adapt the National Retraining Scheme to provide the holistic support that gig workers need.
Platform modification: Help Hotspots would provide a broad range of drop-in support for people in locations and times that fit into gig workers' daily lives.