Watch on-demand: Lessons on the rise of the gig economy
The gig economy workforce in the UK has trebled over the last 5 years, with almost 22.6% of workers having undertaken platform work at some point, reflecting an increasing desire of workers to have the flexibiity to work if, when and for however long they wish.
From courier and transport services to online freelancers and microwork, gig work is becoming a central part of the workforce, yet there has been a lack of government action to enable individuals and businesses to fully reap the benefits.
For this session, as part of our Exploring the Future of Work Series, we were joined by panellists:
- Paul Bedford, Global Director of Policy and Sustainability, Deliveroo
- Martin Hermoso, Rider Engagement Manager, Deliveroo
- Joe McMorrow, Senior Associate, Pinsent Masons
- Professor Jacqueline O'Reilly, Co-Director, Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (digit) at the University of Sussex Business School
- Hannah Slaughter, Senior Economist, Resolution Foundation
- Neil Ross, Associate Director, Policy, techUK (Chair)
Please note that the below is a summary of the event, and readers are encouraged to watch the webinar to understand the full details of the discussion.
Growth of industry
Panellists discussed the growth of the gig economy over the past five years, exacerbated by the increased use of courier services during the pandemic. Rather than being a temporary boom to the industry, consumers have sustained their use of courier platforms post-pandemic despite the reopening of traditional in-person businesses and the cost-of-living crisis. Professor Jacqueline O'Reilly hypothesised three key reasons for this:
- The increased use of smartphones in day-to-day life and the growth of app market development have led to greater availability of platforms and services.
- Services such as Amazon next day delivery have catalysed changes in consumer demand and expectations for goods and services.
- Platforms can tap into a large pool of diverse workers due to the flexible nature of the role. Gig economy workers often can irregular hours to suit their current schedule, be that for other careers, education, or other life circumstances.
The panellists encouraged policymakers to look towards its European neighbours for inspiration in domestic policy. Praise was given to the current model deployed in France with a minimum standard of protection for workers and annual dialogues between unions and industry. The EU is looking to introduce a workers' platform directive. This will look to define what is and isn’t a self-employed worker and where companies need to provide benefits for their workers whilst protecting companies from being penalised in courts. Currently, the UK’s own Taylor review has not led to many domestic changes and the talks of the upcoming employment bill are still in the pipeline. Policymakers were encouraged to look towards how the EU acts—techUK looks forward to engaging with the EU on this.
Future of the gig economy
The consensus through the discussion is that the gig economy is here to stay and will continue to be a major player in both everyday convenience and the wider economy. Panellists stressed the UK is currently in a period of change post-pandemic, Brexit, and net zero. We must look to address the clarity from policymakers to ensure that this industry continues to prosper.
Future of Work
The future of work is changing. Technology is powering a growth in flexible work across the economy, whilst emerging technologies such as robotics and AI are set to become common place. techUK believes the UK must consider the implications of digital transformation in the world of work now, equipping people and businesses across the country with the skills and conditions needed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 4IR.
Discover more techUK activity focused on ensuring the UK has the skills it needs to become a world-leading digital economy on our Jobs and Skills hub.