Crowdworking survey reveals the true size of the UK‘s ‘gig economy‘

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Adressing a vast gap in knowledge on the size and magnitude of crowdworking, the first results of a new crowdworking survey initiated by UNI Europa and the European think tank FEPS and carried out by the University of Hertfordshire and Ipsos Mori are now out. As reported in The Guardian on Monday February 16, the results show that more and more work is being organised via online platforms. The sheer size of crowd-working and the so-called sharing economy has even caught the researchers by surprise as the findings show an explosion of what might be called platform labour.

The first analysis focuses on the UK, with a more international research phase starting now.

An estimate of 9 million people – 21% of survey respondents – have used online platforms to seek paid crowd work in the UK and over 40% of the population has used services from crowdworkers (such as taxi drivers, builders, graphic designers and even accountants) – a whopping 18.5 million consumers.

In general the range of jobs crowdworkers perform is very broad. It can be desk-based online work for platforms such as Upwork, Clickworker or Peopleperhour. But substantial numbers are also using these platforms to do work in other people‘s homes, such as cleaning, gardening, carpentry or running errands for platforms like Handy, Taskrabbit, Mybuilder or Mopp. Around 7% of survey respondents (equivalent to around three million UK adults between 16 and 75) say they are actual or would-be drivers, working for companies like Uber or Blablacar.Women are somewhat more likely (54%) to be crowd workers than men and a small majority (51%) of crowd workers are under 35. For a substantial proportion of them, more than half of their income is earned through online platforms.

Online platforms do offer many new opportunities but their increasing dominance has a dark side. Self-employment and freelance work is on the rise, leaving many young people struggling to make ends meet. Their income is highly insecure as they now bear the risk of market fluctation, and low pay is rampant. Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary explains, “The polarisation of the workforce is especially worrying as low-pay, insecure jobs are on the rise while the medium skilled and waged are rapidly disappearing,‘ Mr Roethig continues: “We must make sure so-called (and misnamed) ‚sharing economy‘ isn‘t a bad excuse to undercut our standards, and turns into an uncontrollable race to the bottom. Crowdworkers must be guaranteed social rights such as unemployment benefits, holidays and sick leave, on the same footing as employees.“


Read the Press Release and Study Fact sheet here

Read the Guardian article here

Read here an article and an editorial in the Independent