Services like Uber and Airtasker are touted as being significant disruptors for traditional work – but Australians are not entirely convinced.
A preliminary report found less than 10 per cent of respondents said they worked through a digital platform in the past twelve months, and of those those currently working on-demand, only 15 per cent said the extra income was essential.
“A substantial minority of respondents currently participating in digital platform work were reliant on the income, considering it 'essential for meeting their basic needs',” the report said.
“A further quarter said it was an 'important part of overall income, but not essential', whereas a little more than half considered the income 'nice to have but can live without it'.
“Transport and food delivery drivers, in particular, were much more likely to say that their work generated 100 per cent of their total annual income.”
This lack of reliance on these services is further evidenced by the amount of time spent working.
Nearly half of current workers said they spent less than five hours working on-demand per week with only five per cent reporting over 26 hours worked each week.
From July 1, the Australian minimum wage will rise to $19.49 – an amount that is not earned by all digital platform workers.
Forty per cent of respondents said they did not know how much they were earning per hour. Of those who could report their hourly income, eight per cent of respondents reported earning less than $15 per hour with the average hourly rate being $32.
Those doing clerical, data entry, writing, and translation work were most likely to earn less than $10 per hour.
But even that remuneration may not include the extra time spent doing unpaid tasks like searching for work, updating their profiles, and posting information which accounts for an average of five extra hours per week.
Over a quarter of current on-demand workers report that their main platform treats them as employees, despite most platforms operating on the basis that workers are self-employed.
In the UK, Uber drivers are workers, but that is not the same in Australia.
Earlier this month, Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said that the relationship between Uber Australia and its drivers is not classed as employment – but with a caveat that Fair Work’s investigation does not necessarily relate to the gig economy as a whole.
“For such a relationship to exist, the courts have determined that there must be, at a minimum, an obligation for an employee to perform work when it is demanded by the employer.
“Our investigation found that Uber Australia drivers are not subject to any formal or operational obligation to perform work.
“Uber Australia drivers have control over whether, when, and for how long they perform work, on any given day or on any given week.
“Uber Australia does not require drivers to perform work at particular times and this was a key factor in our assessment that the commercial arrangement between the company and the drivers does not amount to an employment relationship.”
Two-thirds of previous gig-economy workers cited finding more suitable employment, and insufficient income or work as reasons for no-longer offering their services.
The survey showed a mixed bag of experiences for people who have worked in digital platforms. Forty per cent of text comments showed satisfaction with the work, like “It’s a good way to earn a little extra money on the side”.
While the remainder were largely negative and showed frustration with aspects of the gig economy with one respondent saying that on-demand work “is equivalent to modern day slave labour”.