Over the past two years, Uber has taken center stage in public debates about the future of work, driven by our collective anxiety about technology and growing economic insecurity. The concern is that workers increasingly do not have employers anymore and are facing lower wages, no access to health and pension benefits, exclusion from safety-net programs, and chronic instability in their incomes and work lives. At the same time, the singular focus on Uber is impeding our ability to get an accurate understanding of what has (and has not) changed in the workplace – and the policy solutions that are needed. While the prevailing narrative is that there has been substantial growth in “gig” work, it’s been surprisingly difficult to confirm the trend, partly because of the lack of good data. Exacerbating the problem is very different definitions of gig work.
In this paper we (1) provide a clear framework to help define gig work and understand how it relates to other forms of work being discussed and (2) draw on current research to identify what we know (and don’t know) about the prevalence of gig work, the demographics of the workforce, and job quality outcomes, using data on California where possible.
UC Berkeley Centre for Labor Research and Education 2017