Welcome to this week’s edition of The Labs Report. 

Last week, we took a look at how COVID-19 affected conversations about the economy in general. This week, we’re narrowing the aperture to see how COVID-19 is impacting an area of the economy that’s particularly vulnerable to societal disruption – the sharing (or gig) economy.

 

In Focus: The Sharing Economy Faces COVID-19 

We first looked at the total volume of mentions around the sharing economy over the past week. As you can see from the above graphs, the volume of the conversation – which was primarily driven by Twitter – has been steadily increasing over the past week, peaking on Thursday afternoon. Volume has dipped slightly as of the time of writing, but it’s early Friday morning, and we can expect the volume to increase again as the day wears on. 

Next, we looked at the top issues that drove the conversation around the sharing economy this week. No surprise that COVID-19 was the top issue, seeing a steady increase and peak in accordance with the total mentions discussed above. 

In particular, sick pay and insurance saw a significant increase in chatter. In fact, the top story of the week was a petition on Coworkers.org, which explained that it’s critical for gig workers to receive paid sick time because they are particularly vulnerable to  1) contracting illnesses like COVID-19 due to their near-constant contact with other people; and 2) enduring financial hardships when they can’t work or people stop using gig economy services as they practice social distancing or self-isolation.

An article from The Guardian echoed this sentiment, albeit more bluntly, with the headline quoting a delivery driver they interviewed for the piece – “‘If I catch the coronavirus I’m screwed. Gig economy workers can’t afford to be ill’.”

To add further context to our analysis, we also examined conversations around some of the top sharing economy companies, which provide services in different areas (ridesharing, food delivery, task completion, car rental, dog walking, etc.) 

Unsurprisingly, Uber and Lyft topped the conversation by volume, with Instacart, Doordash, and Grubhub coming in behind them. 

As a result of the ongoing conversations around protections for gig economy workers over the past week, Uber and Lyft have both announced that they will pay drivers who cannot work because of COVID-19 for up to 14 days, although they did not release the specific details of that plan. 

Doordash, Instacart and Postmates, whose workers were recognized by Slate as a new type of first responders during COVID-19, have started unveiling “no contact” delivery programs, in varying forms. 

Meanwhile, in certain areas like Seattle and San Francisco, where companies have asked their employees to work from home to try and contain the spread of COVID-19, gig economy workers using services like Wag and Rover are facing a wave of cancellations and lost income – their usual clients no longer need someone to take their dog for a walk because they can do it themselves.

 

While You Wait

Stay tuned for more coverage on the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19. We’re monitoring the situation in real time and will be providing data-driven updates, insights and analyses on an ongoing basis.

Need a break from reading about COVID-19? Visit our Resource Center and read our latest blog post to learn how disinformation spreads on social media via our data-driven analysis of how Russian-supported narratives are influencing Georgian politics.

Like what you see? Get in touch with our team to find out more about how Zignal can help you measure the real-time evolution of opinion to shape more powerful brands, campaigns, products, and threat detection.

“In Focus” Methodology: The data which drives this section is informed by an analysis of data related to the industry in question from March 6th to March 13th, 2020.