A new report for the TUC shows a big rise in gig working in the last five years amid mounting concerns about workers’ rights.
The number of people working for gig economy platforms has almost tripled in England and Wales over the past five years, according to new research for the TUC.
The research – carried out by the University of Hertfordshire with fieldwork and data collection by BritainThinks – shows that three in 20 (14.7 per cent) working adults surveyed now work via gig economy platforms at least once a week, compared to around one in 20 (5.8 per cent) in 2016 and just over two in 20 (11.8 per cent) in 2019.
The TUC says that amounts to 4.4 million people in England and Wales working for gig economy platforms at least once a week.
In addition, almost a quarter (22.6 per cent) of workers have done platform work at some point, up from one in 10 (11.5 per cent) in 2016.
The term “platform work” covers a wide range of gig economy jobs that are found via a “platform” (a website or app) – like Uber, Handy, Deliveroo, Gorillas or Upwork – and accessed using a laptop, smartphone or other internet-connected device.
Tasks include taxi driving, deliveries, office work, design, software development, cleaning and household repairs.
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.
The research shows that, 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 per cent in 2016, to 6.1 per cent in 2019, rising to 8.9 per cent in 2021).
– More than doubled in household services (from 3.2 per cent in 2016 to 6.5 per cent in 2019 to 7.9 per cent in 2021).
– Almost tripled in errand running (from 2.3 per cent in 2016 to 3.8 per cent and to 6.2 per cent in 2021).
– More than doubled in remote online digital tasks (from 4.9 per cent in 2016 to 9.6 per cent in 2019 to 11.9 per cent in 2021).
The TUC says that this “spiralling” gig economy will lead to more workers on low pay and experiencing poor conditions and possibly being falsely unemployed. It says that even if workers can show they are not self employed they usually end up with far fewer rights than conventional employees. Many miss out on basic rights like the national minimum wage, paid holidays or sick pay.
The TUC is calling for workers to have greater trade union and individual rights including a new ‘worker’ definition that covers all existing employees and workers and gives them the full range of legal rights and a ban on zero hours contracts.
Co-author Ursula Huws, Director of Analytica Social and Economic Research, says: “The growth of platform work has to be seen in the context of growing time poverty in the British workforce. People are having to take on extra work to make ends meet, but that leaves them with little time for their household and care responsibilities, forcing them to turn to platforms to supply these needs.”