Extract from an article by Sarah Kaine, Alex Veen, Caleb Goods and Emmanuel Josserand
Uber driver Michelle, thinks her job is fantastic when she’s only after part-time hours. But she’s given it a couple of months and she says she’s not getting anywhere.
To be able to earn A$800 she has to actually pull in A$1,500, averaging 70 hours a week. The money per hour can be good, but only when it really picks up. Looking at the current job market, she doesn’t want to do two full-time jobs to make the same amount of money that she used to earn in an office, working half the time.
She feels exhausted. She used to think people in Melbourne were good drivers, but now that she’s been driving all day, she sees a fair amount of aggression. Six weeks ago she was trying to merge into traffic and a man in a ute next to her showed her a crowbar.
Her latest day off she spent sleeping because she was so tired.
Michelle (not her real name) was one of our study participants. We interviewed 60 ridesharing and food delivery workers like her. And the reality of their experiences is far more nuanced than others make out.
A key finding is that gig workers arbitrate between the costs and benefits of gig work. Many interviewees preferred their gig work over other forms of low-paid work (most commonly cleaning, hospitality, retail) because of abusive bosses, underpayment, and underemployment. In comparison, gig work is seen by these workers as providing a more appealing work environment.
While some rideshare drivers note they need to work long hours to earn the equivalent of a full-time wage, they also emphasise their enjoyment of their rideshare work. One food delivery worker summed it up:
It is more flexible. You can do whatever you want. You are on the street talking to the people enjoying. You can do exercise as well on the bicycle. And, it is good money.
Despite these workers’ sense that there are opportunities in gig work – their experience was not overwhelmingly positive. There was a group of workers who felt marginalised, had few choices, and the gig work was a last resort.
These workers saw gig work as a stopgap measure while they looked for “real” jobs. In these cases they were doing it because it got them out of the house, to supplement their income or before starting their own business…(continues)
SOURCE: Sarah Kaine, Alex Veen, Caleb Goods and Emmanuel Josserand, “‘The way they manipulate people is really saddening’: study shows the trade-offs in gig work”, The Conversation, 19 June 2017
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia