This research report contains the main findings of a qualitative research project based on 150 telephone and face-to-face interviews with individuals working in the gig economy. They were primarily asked about their motivations for undertaking this type of work, the nature of the work itself, and their experiences of using online platforms and finding and carrying out the work.
This study highlights the diversity of the gig economy, both in terms of the types of individuals undertaking this work and the work that they are doing. Individuals come from a variety of backgrounds, with a range of differing experiences and skillsets,and find themselves undertaking gig economy work for a diverse range of reasons. The type of work that they undertake varies enormously, from unskilled physical work, such as cleaning and dog walking, through to office-type administrative and short online tasks, and driving and delivery work, to a range of skilled creative and professional work.
The experience of individuals depends heavily on whether or not they are carrying out gig economy work as their main source of income. If this is the case, they are potentially vulnerable to fluctuations in working time and therefore pay levels, short notice of working schedules, and suffer from a degree of precariousness in terms of a lack of employment rights. A need for income also means that individuals may not have a choice about which work to accept. By contrast, where individuals are working in the gig economy in order to top up either individual or household income, they are less vulnerable to fluctuations in the amount of work available and also typically have more freedom to choose which jobs to accept and reject.
We found that experiences of the gig economy were very much dependent on the respondents’ circumstances. Although the perceived advantages of working in the gig economy varied, the ability to work flexibly and the control this afforded individuals was a commonly-cited perception. However, some might find themselves financially vulnerable when working in this way, due to fluctuations in the amount of work available and a limited ability to save. Despite this, many seemed unquestioning of this flexible and patchwork working life, in which income is derived from a variety of sources. This may point to a change in overall attitudes to work for some groups in the UK.