In Brief

Gig economy in Britain doubles to 4.7m workers

New report says worker rights are declining amid a surge in gig economy roles

Britain’s gig economy has more than doubled in size over the past three years and now accounts for 4.7m workers, according to a new report.

As many as one in 10 working-age adults now work on gig economy platforms, up from one in 20 as recently as 2016, says the study, from the TUC and experts at the University of Hertfordshire.

The report shows how “a boom in digital platforms, such as Uber and Deliveroo, has sparked a revolution in the world of work”, but that “workers’ rights have failed to keep pace with the dismantling of the traditional nine-to-five working week”, The Guardian says.

The report, which is based on a poll of 2,235 UK residents, aged between 16 and 75, says the number of working-age adults who have worked for an online platform at least once a week has risen from 4.7% (2.3m workers) three years ago, to 9.6%, (4.7m) today.

The BBC says that the report shows the “changing world of work,” which the Huffington Post calls “divisive”.

The findings demonstrate that “working people are battling to making ends meet”, said TUC chief Frances O'Grady.

She added: “Huge numbers are being forced to take on casual and insecure platform work - often on top of other jobs.

“But as we've seen with Uber, too often these workers are denied their rights and are treated like disposable labour.”

The Office for National Statistics had previously calculated the size of the gig economy workforce in 2017 to be just 4.4% of the population. However, the new study took a wider definition of platform work, taking in paid tasks found via a website or an app.

Young people were found to be most likely to be using apps to find work that way, with nearly two-thirds of those working once a week aged between 16 and 34.

Men are more likely than women to undertake such work, while most people use more than one platform to earn a living.

In response to the report, Rachel Reeves, the Labour chair of the Commons business committee, said: “The government has been far to slow in tackling the fallout from the gig economy, which too often leaves workers exploited and victim to low pay and insecure work.”

David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank of England’s rate-setting monetary policy committee, and the author of a book on the rise of unstable employment, said: “The gig economy isn’t necessarily bad” but added that people have been “scared senseless” over employment since the 2008 crash.

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