Gig economy workers earn below minimum wage, says study

The research highlighted significant concerns regarding work-related anxiety



  • More than 50% of gig economy workers in the UK earn below the minimum wage 
  • The average hourly wage for gig workers is £8.97, approximately 15% below the current UK minimum wage
  • Work-related insecurity and anxiety are experienced by 76% of surveyed gig workers, while 28% feel their health and safety are at risk
  • Gig workers express a strong desire for basic rights, including minimum wage rates, holiday and sick pay, as well as protection against unfair dismissal

A new study from the University of Bristol reveals that over half of gig economy workers in the UK are earning below the minimum wage. The study, which surveyed 510 gig workers last year, found that 52% of respondents involved in various gig jobs, including data entry and food delivery, were earning less than the current UK minimum wage of £10.42 per hour. On average, gig workers earned £8.97 per hour, reflecting a 15% shortfall.

The research also highlighted significant concerns regarding work-related insecurity and anxiety, with 76% of respondents reporting such experiences. Furthermore, 28% felt that their health or safety was at risk while working in the gig economy, and 25% reported experiencing pain on the job.

Lead author Dr Alex Wood, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Future of Work at the University of Bristol Business School, said: “The findings highlight that working in the UK gig economy often entails low pay, anxiety, and stress. As food, fuel and housing costs keep rising, this group of workers are especially vulnerable and need to be more adequately remunerated and better protected.”

Gig workers overwhelmingly expressed a desire for improved conditions, emphasizing the importance of basic rights such as minimum wage rates, holiday and sick pay, and protection against unfair dismissal. They also called for the establishment of unions and platform councils, similar to works councils in European countries, to represent their interests and influence the operations and working conditions of gig platforms. Over 75% of respondents believed that the introduction of such bodies would yield immediate benefits.

This pioneering research sheds light on the challenges faced by gig economy workers in the UK and emphasizes the urgent need for improvements in their working conditions and rights.

The study encompassed a diverse range of gig economy workers, including remote freelancers using platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, as well as local drivers providing food delivery and taxi services through platforms like Deliveroo and Uber. The research highlighted that gig work was not merely a side hustle for these individuals, as they dedicated an average of 28 hours per week to gig work, which constituted 60% of their total earnings.

Dr Wood said: “A major factor contributing to low pay rates is that this work involves spending significant amounts of time waiting or looking for work while logged on to a platform. Not only is the work low paid, but it is also extremely insecure and risky.

“The self-employed who are dependent on platforms to make a living are urgently in need of labour protections to shield them against the huge power asymmetries that exist in the sector. This clearly warrants the expansion of the current ‘worker’ status to protect them.”

Respondents primarily identified their work as self-employment and expressed a desire for an extension of labor rights to include the self-employed. They believed that such an extension would significantly improve their working lives. The findings also revealed strong support for European-style co-determination, where gig worker representatives are consulted and have decision-making authority over changes that affect their working conditions and employment. The existence of works councils in countries like Germany provided a potential model for platform councils and assemblies in the gig economy to empower workers to have a say in the decisions that impact their livelihoods.