McGill University Gig Worker Survey

with John-Paul Ferguson 

In the past decade, people have increasingly been performing short-term jobs, or gigs, on temporary-work platforms like Uber, Upwork, and TaskRabbit. This trend has given rise to discussion, in academic and policy circles, about a “gig economy,” and whether these new forms of work are good or bad, on balance, for society. Yet this debate mostly takes place in an empirical void: how the typical worker fares in the gig economy is not well understood. Do gig workers manage to build good careers on these platforms, or does this sort of work just take job security away from others without providing it to them? Can someone feasibly do many different types of work, for many employers, for many years? These questions are unanswered in part because traditional survey instruments are not helpful for gathering representative information on a population, like gig workers, which is hard to define before surveying begins. We are gathering representative information using a new survey method, to better understand how gig workers distribute their efforts across different platforms and types of work. Our objective with this research is to speak to a larger debate in work and employment relations about the possible trade-offs between employment flexibility and employment security.

This work is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant ($56,000) and a McGill University Internal Social Sciences and Humanities Development Grant ($6,000). The text of our research proposal is available here.


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