Pay in the gig economy

I thought I’d go for something different this week and write a quick post about a recent article I’ve read: How much does the gig economy pay? It’s complicated.

The post, in The San Diego Union-Tribune, makes the argument that pay in the San Diego gig economy, regardless of platform, is ‘pretty low’. I’ll leave you to read and think about what the article suggests, but will draw out two things to expand on.

Drawing from a JPMorgan Chase & Co. Institute 2016 report, less than 1% of the San Diego workforce made money from some form of online platform. This number is likely to be greater in London, however, with a rise of 72% (2010-2016) of people working in the gig economy. This number is likely to vary even more when considering other cities in other countries, showing the varied importance of the gig economy to the local economy. This sector currently receives a considerable amount of attention, in part due to continued strikes and legal disputes. However, it should be recognised that in some cities the relative importance of the gig economy is rather small. As a result, people interested in social justice who might look to improve the conditions of the gig economy in their city, might better focus on other areas of urban inequality.

Secondly, the article doesn’t count the costs inherent to working in the gig economy. Whilst I can’t speak for platforms like TaskRabbit and Airbnb, the costs of working for companies like UberEATS, Quipup and Jinn are noticeable. Firstly, it’s necessary to purchase the relevant equipment, including a bike or moped, delivery backpack and uniform. It is then necessary to ensure the equipment is in good condition and seek out repairs if necessary. Personally, I’ve spent more on bike repairs than I did on the actual bike.

In addition, I remember speaking to one rider about his bike, where the frame was literally broken in half on the section in-between his legs and the seat. For moped riders, petrol is a major component and without it, they’re not going far. Whilst for some companies, fuel is reimbursed to drivers, I’ve heard that distance travelled is calculated as a straight line. Obviously moped drivers don’t drive this way in reality, so they’re not being fully reimbursed for the petrol used.

Whilst these costs might not appear much, the ‘pretty low’ pay means that they’re high in comparison to what many earn. There’s more information about pay in the gig economy in past posts here and here.

Give the article a read and let me know what you think in the comments section below!


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