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Gig work is precarious no matter the country

Gig work is precarious no matter the country


A new Rest of World series covers the fragile livelihoods of international gig workers

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A Zomato delivery man seen riding along the streets of...
Photo by Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The lives of delivery workers in major US cities are dangerous, surprisingly expensive, and largely only possible because of the support app-based laborers offer each other. But a new editorial series from Rest of World shows that the experiences of US-based gig workers aren’t unique — trying to make a living while at the whims of indifferent platforms is difficult no matter what country you’re in.

Rest of World’s overview is based on a survey of over 4,000 gig workers across the world. The publication’s findings are extensive — there’s plenty to examine from just about every angle you can imagine — but the similarities drawn between workers in different countries is striking:

Many [workers] — more than 60% — said that they were financially satisfied. But, at the same time, 62% also said that they were frequently anxious and scared on the job, afraid of accidents, assaults, illness, or simply not making enough money to cover their costs. More than two-thirds of the workers surveyed by Rest of World said they want out within a year. More than a quarter said they were planning on quitting within a month. 

Those parallels appeared in another aspect of platform work the series analyzes: the treatment of women in the gig economy. Rest of World found women’s historically marginalized status in traditional economies was replicated on apps and platforms. Rest of World’s survey indicated women worked fewer hours — and many had caregiving duties on top of gig work. They also worked lower-paying gigs and “earned less overall ... than their male counterparts.”

The gig economy’s strangling, kudzu vine-like spread is largely possible because of massive sums of money from investment funds and, sometimes, other platform companies. Individual profiles included in the series further highlight that reach: a doctor working on a telehealth app in India, a delivery worker dealing with back pain in South Korea, and more. There’s too much to possibly summarize in one place, which is all the more reason why you should check out the entire Rest of World series here.