In Focus: The Gig Economy During COVID-19
As COVID-19 continues to strain the workforce, gig workers (independent contractors) have experienced some of the greatest impacts created by pandemic-related lockdowns.
Using the Zignal Media Intelligence Cloud, we took a closer look at key aspects of the global conversation surrounding the gig economy over the last few months.
- The primary dilemma for gig economy workers is whether to stay safe or get paid. With the lack of sick leave and health benefits, gig workers face greater risks to their health and well-being during this pandemic.
- Politicians drove considerable negative attention, specifically around California’s Assembly Bill 5, unfair worker compensation, and growing monopolies.
Gig Economy Sentiment Over Time (1/27/20 – 8/18/20)
Overall mentions dropped 36% between the time ranges of February 1st and May 13th and May 14th and August 18th of this year. Additionally, negative sentiment volume fell by 52% during the same time ranges.
Significant Sentiment Spikes (2/1/20 – 5/13/20)
March 1-8: The spike in negative mentions was generated by conversation centered around the lack of security that gig workers are experiencing during this pandemic:
- An article published by The Washington Post stated that drivers for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart do not receive sick leave nor do they get any health care benefits — compared to their in-office working peers, who have the option to stay home if needed.
- A reporter for the LA Times, Margot Roosevelt, shared a similar article highlighting the unfairness of our workforce system which abandons roughly 25% of our labor force with no access to sick time, subjecting them to limited aid when needed most.
March 9-16: Negative mentions reached their peak on March 9th due to three main stories:
- Bernie Sanders tweeted that our government must provide emergency unemployment assistance to gig workers and those at greater risk as our economy shuts down.
- An article published by Publico Spain highlighted the struggles facing drivers as demand for home food delivery increases.
- News that Canada’s $1 Billion COVID-19 plan leaves a vast majority of food delivery drivers behind due to “employee classifications” drove considerable unfavorable coverage.
May 4-11: Negative mentions spiked due to:
- Grubhub reporting a record revenue increase due to increased numbers of restaurants utilizing the service. These negative mentions centered around Grubhub’s steep platform charges, which many restaurants must pay to stay in business.
- A round of lay-offs by Uber, which totaled 3,700 employees.
Hashtag Cloud (2/12/2020 – 5/13/20)
- #sickpayforall: Mentions of #sickpayforall were primarily driven by UK based Twitter accounts. The top three accounts sharing this hashtag were Zarah Sultana (Labour Member of Parliament), the Trades Union Congress, and the Bath Labour Party.
- #Workersfirst: Chuck Schumer was the top driver of mentions for #Workersfirst, calling for the protection of gig workers during the shutdowns.
- #AB5: Members of the Republican party voiced their opposition to Assembly Bill 5, stating it has done more harm to the gig economy than good.
Significant Sentiment Spikes (5/14/20 – 8/18/20)
May 18-25: A negative spike in mentions was driven by:
- News that Uber cut 25% of its workforce due to pressure from the pandemic. Coverage by The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and The Seattle Times drove the majority of mentions around the event.
June 22-25: Negative mentions spiked due to outrage over a switch in transportation services that carried much-needed healthcare workers to the homes of COVID-19 patients during the pandemic in Madrid.
- The President of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, made the switch between taxi drivers to Uber drivers after the initial crisis subsided. This motion brought outrage from participating health care workers, as utilizing Uber for their transportation needs now required them to pay and request new Uber drivers after each stop.
August 10-17: Neutral mentions spiked in part due to news stories of new unemployment claims dropping below 1 million for the first time in five months.
- Additionally, the top story of the week was driven by a New York Times article which reported that a large percentage of gig workers actually prefer to be classified as contractors for job flexibility, while also highlighting that a switch to employee classification for drivers would greatly increase ride costs and significantly lower availability to riders.
Hashtags Cloud (5/14/20 – 8/18/20)
- #unemployment: Conversation around #unemployment was primarily driven by mentions that unemployment benefits are becoming more readily available for gig workers.
- #Savethe600: Individuals took to Twitter, asking their senators to reinstate the $600 unemployment benefits package to help gig workers pay their rent or mortgages.
- #Ab5: Frustration surrounding AB5 continued to generate conversation, though volume dropped by 80% from its peak. Users complained that AB5 has done more harm to gig workers than it has helped them.
For other insights and analysis into timely topics, read full-length Intelligence Briefs on our Reports page.