Safety nets for gig workers

Co-designing solutions to build financial resilience and opportunities for training and development opportunities for gig workers

Photo by Samuel Foster on Unsplash.

Our work can define us, enable us to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, and be the source of our greatest accomplishments. But it also an area that is in flux, with technology constantly reshaping the work we do and how we do it.

One of the most recent changes is the rise of the gig economy. Almost three million people in the UK are now doing ‘gigs’ for digital platforms. This new, entrepreneurial workforce is capable of undertaking any service — drivers, cleaners and carers are among those who can apply and get jobs automatically allocated to them through their smartphones.

The low cost and convenience of these services clearly appeal to consumers, and subsequently, demand for them is only increasing. But with the emergence of this new and growing workforce, we need to ensure that these workers’ current and future needs are satisfied.

At Doteveryone we want to build a new social contract for the digital age. We believe that technology, and technological change, can and should benefit more of us, more of the time. And that the responsible use of technology can promote and support a fair, inclusive and thriving democratic society.

And with support from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Accenture, and Trust for London, we’re launching a new project which focuses on two areas ripe for change:

  1. Financial safety nets — helping gig-economy workers deal with day-to-day fluctuations and be resilient to unexpected developments
  2. Skills and training — helping workers develop their careers, whether within or outside the gig economy.

Recent research has shown that many workers struggle to meet day-to-day expenses, let alone large one-off bills.

We also know that many gig-economy workers report that the need or expectation for them to be “always on” means they are beholden to the possibility of work at any moment, which can make it difficult to make plans or to prioritise longer-term needs. And that few platforms currently provide training, other than necessary inductions, or a prospect of promotion.

Without financial resilience and training opportunities, some workers can struggle to develop their skills and demonstrate relevant experience that might help them to progress.

We’re focusing on presenting solutions

And that’s why we’re focusing on presenting solutions to some of these challenges. We’ll be involving gig workers to understand from them what they need and to co-create prototypes to overcome barriers to financial resilience and career development.

This project is about empowering more workers to create a working environment that suits their needs and to work with them to explore what “good work” looks like.

It’s similar to how we approached exploring portable ratings for gig workers early last year — through co-designing, testing and iterating lightweight prototypes with potential users we can help to solve some of these challenges that are unfolding around us.

Prototyping means we can work quickly, solving challenges in real time and make change more achievable.

The gig economy is at a critical stage of its development and we want to drive positive changes for platform workers in the long-term. But we also know we can’t do this alone. So we will build a coalition with platforms, banks, training providers and others to ensure these prototypes can become viable solutions and to build a supportive social infrastructure for platform workers.

If you are interested in being involved in this work, please get in contact at [email protected]. We look forward to speaking to you and keeping you updated as the project progresses.

Safety nets for gig workers was originally published in Doteveryone on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.