Gainful Gigging

Year of Publication: 

The gig economy can offer some useful opportunities to people who struggle to work in conventional ways according to Gainful Gigging, a report published by Reform. 

In his review of modern employment practices last week, Matthew Taylor hailed the “genuine two-way flexibility” the gig economy can offer, and the opportunity it presents for “those who may not be able to work in conventional ways”. Reform’s latest report echoes this, and makes recommendations for how government should support people into the gig economy.

Older and disabled people are key beneficiaries of recent growth in flexible work. Many face significant work barriers and are far less likely to be economically active than average. Around half of all 50-64 year olds manage at least one long-term health condition. Of the 3 million in this age group that are economically inactive, around 12% spend over 20 hours per week looking after a sick, disabled or elderly person.

Key points:
  • The UK gig economy is rapidly growing and expanding into new sectors, such as teaching and domiciliary care.
  • Most work in the gig economy is highly flexible, and several surveys of gig workers indicate the value they place on flexibility.
  • Many jobseekers such as older and disabled people have a demonstrable preference for flexible work.
  • Employment services currently perform poorly for many of these jobseekers, with, for example, older and disabled people three-times less likely to succeed through the Work Programme.
  • Existing welfare-to-work programmes, Work Programme and Work Choice, only pay providers for moving participants into relatively inflexible work.
  • The Government’s online jobs board, Universal Jobmatch, is not well placed to help jobseekers find work in the gig economy.
  1. The Work and Health Programme should pilot the use of job outcome criteria that are more conducive to flexible forms of work for claimants who are unlikely to consistently achieve a fixed level of hours or earnings.
  2. Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches should be upskilled in supporting suitable claimants to find work on online labour platforms where appropriate.
  3. Universal Jobmatch should use a programme for scraping and collating individual tasks from different platforms in real time, allowing jobseekers to efficiently assess the work currently available across multiple platforms.
  4. A machine-learning recruitment tool should be introduced to Universal Jobmatch to offer jobseekers more personalised task suggestions based on the previous work it paired them with.