Good Gigs: A fairer future for the UK’s gig economy

How platforms can become a catalyst for fair, fulfilling work in the modern labour market

Apr 26, 2017 · 31 min read

The RSA’s recommendations

Our recommendations aim to:

  • Specify that employment intermediaries can offer training and development opportunities, and to any category of worker.
  • Consult with the public on any proposed changes to tax law, trialing deliberative methods.
  • Suspend tribunal fees for workers challenging their employment status.
  • Introduce a summary process for workers wishing to challenge employment status at a tribunal.
  • Reverse the burden of proof, so that the onus is on companies to prove that their workers are not ‘workers’ or employees.

Structure of the report

Section 1: The nature of Britain’s gig economy

1. The nature of Britain’s gig economy

It’s likely that some reading this will have recently taken an Uber to get around the city, or ordered a curry through Deliveroo on a night in. There may also be readers who are more familiar with being behind the wheel, or on a bike balancing a takeaway while skilfully manoeuvring through traffic.

Part I: The current trend

Not only has the number of gig workers grown, but the sector itself has expanded to encompass different kinds of work in recent years. Work found online has typically been of a highly-skilled nature, taking the form of ‘crowdwork’ (jobs that are crowdsourced online and can be performed anywhere in the world). Increasingly, however, labour-based platforms of the sharing economy are generating jobs with lower barriers to entry and that tend to be carried out locally, such as work in personal services, driving, and delivery. Alongside this shift in the types of work being carried out, we have seen a change in the characteristics of the workforce.

What kind of services are being provided?

  • Skilled manual or personal services
  • Driving and delivery services

Where are the gig workers based?

What do we know about who the gig workers are?

How frequent are the gigs?

How dependent are gig workers on platforms?

What are the motivations for undertaking gig work?

  • Roughly a third specified that they had been looking to make extra money.

Part II: Insight into different experiences

There is no universal experience in the gig economy. In particular, the experiences of gig workers diverge along the lines of age and gender, reflecting where people are in their working lives, their degree of dependence on platforms, and their motivations.

How do young people fare in the gig economy?

How do women fare in the gig economy?

Part III: Future prospects

In an exercise of foresight, we consider the growth of the gig economy and whether the trend is likely to prevail.

Is the gig economy just a fad?

Given that the trend towards gig work is fairly new, some might assume that it will be fleeting. However, our findings reveal that this trend is likely to endure, especially when we consider this against the backdrop of the rise in self-employment.

What direction could the gig economy go in?

In essence, the workforce of the gig economy could become considerably larger — there are millions of prospective gig workers — and government needs to think through what the implications of such growth would be for society and how to best manage it.

RSA Reports

The latest thinking from the RSA's Action and Research Centre


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The mission of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is to enrich society through ideas and action.

RSA Reports

The latest thinking from the RSA's Action and Research Centre