Women in the Gig Economy

With the New Year celebrations now over and 2018 now upon us, we are also preparing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the qualification of women into parliament and women over 30 getting to vote.

100 years in parliament, getting the vote and we still can’t get equal pay!

In the 21st century, you’d think this would be a thing of the past. But, with the gig economy on the rise and women working in this sector opting for stereotypical roles in the labour market, is the UK taking a step back?

According to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA), there are currently 4.85 million self employed people in the U.K and just over one third of that population are women, with 1.1 million of all self-employed working in the gig economy.

The gig economy has proven attractive for many women. Working mothers in particular benefit from the flexible hours and independence that it brings. Between 2008 and 2017, the number of self-employed mothers increased by 79%.

While this way of working seems to be becoming more and more popular, it still poses many of the gendered challenges of the wider labour market. The biggest being woman opting for stereotypical roles such as administrative, domestic and care work – the same type of roles we worked circa 1920. With many arguing that WW1 ‘revolutionised’ the industrial position of women – many would agree that the war did offer women increased opportunities in the paid labour market. During this time (1914-1918) an estimated 2 million women replaced men in employment so women have shown that they are more than capable of doing the same jobs as men. So why are we still opting for the same jobs now that we were told we were ‘supposed’ to do then and being underpaid?

Gig economy is predominantly male

The RSA published a recent study on the gig economy, showing that ‘women are half as likely as men to have tried any form of gig work and that the gig economy is predominantly male. Women seem to be more likely found on asset-based platforms, trading in goods like clothing or toys but are heavily concentrated in segments such as cleaning and care working.

When asked, women were much more specific than men about the type of gig work they would do with a narrower span of consideration; the top services they would be willing to provide were administration, professional or creative in nature with personal services also high up there.

Surprise, surprise… Women earn less as Giggers

Women also do not earn much in the gig economy. Almost 75% of women earn less than the taxable threshold – with as many as 66% of female gig workers stating that they also have other forms of work. Potentially, suggesting that at present, women have a much more casual relationship with the gig economy.

In the creative industries, men command an average day rate of £319 (£15 higher than women) according to research by jobs platform YunoJuno. It found women take higher rates across strategy and client service roles, but men’s rates can be as much as £50 a day higher across other disciplines including creative, design and film.

Part of the problem is women setting their own rates dramatically lower than their male competitors. Lee Kemp, a director and owner of Vermillion Films, said two-thirds of freelancers he encountered who “drastically” under-priced themselves were women. “Immediately you think it’s because they are inexperienced or they’re not very good, but that is not always the case”.

Have we only ourselves to blame?

It’s possible that women may be under-represented because newer platforms tend to offer work that women are typically not drawn to in the wider labour market; an example would be the taxi industry, women are not very well represented in this industry so it’s not a surprise that not many work for Uber. However, given that women are more likely to be in professional, creative or administrative services in the economy as a whole, we would expect platforms aimed at freelancers or ‘crowd workers’ to be attracting more women.

 

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