Gender Disparities in the Gig Economy
The gig economy refers to a kind of labor market where the work done is on a part-time or temporary basis. An example of the gig economy is Uber- workers in Uber are essentially freelancers who enjoy flexibility but at the same time have almost no job security and benefits, something that full-time employees would have. Such jobs result in cheaper services for consumers (cabs, deliveries, etc.).
In addition to the problems faced by all gig workers, women face even more hurdles in this kind of economy. When such work originally took course in the country, it was assumed that females in the workforce would increase- given that one of the main reasons women couldn’t engage in full-time work was the burden of juggling household responsibilities along with a job. However, this was not the case. However, this freelance work has been unable to increase the Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR) in India.
One of the biggest reasons behind this is the ever-prevalent gender pay gap that has found its way to sustain itself in the gig economy as well. A study conducted on Uber drivers in the USA found that there was a gender gap between male and female workers who performed the same tasks. The reasons behind this included:
- Women tended to avoid more lucrative areas of rides due to safety issues while men didn’t. This led to higher earnings per hour for males as compared to females.
- More experienced drivers earned higher for the same ride and since women put in less hours than men (to balance work with home), they had less experience which led to lower pay.
- It was found that a faster speed increased driver earnings. Since men tend to drive faster than women, they earned more.
All three of these factors contributing to gender pay gap are a result of gender-based preferences/constraints- something that is also observed in the traditional workforce. However, contrary to the traditional labor market, differences in earnings across genders were not based on intentional discrimination by the employer or the customer which could be counted as a welcome change.
It is important to note that such lack of discrimination was only reported by one study. Other articles have reported instances of prejudice faced by female workers in the gig economy. Female delivery workers have spoken about the harassment that they face from customers while female cab drivers have spoken about how people tend to cancel on them when they notice that a female driver was assigned to them due to the common misconception that women are bad drivers.
Since women tend to occupy a very small share of the cab-hailing business as well as the delivery workers, the algorithm that is responsible for such apps tends to incentivize against women by prioritizing longer working hours, late shifts, etc., which leads to a fall in the pay of those females who do work in this sector. Moreover, the gig economy also reduces any possibility of unionizing for women that could potentially improve their work conditions- considering that most of them aren’t even aware of any other female working in the same freelance job as them.
Addressing gender disparities in the gig economy requires a multi-faceted approach that involves various stakeholders, including gig platforms, companies, governments, and society as a whole. By implementing policies and practices that promote equal pay, access to high-paying gigs, support networks, and work-life balance, we can strive towards a more equitable gig economy that provides opportunities and empowerment for all, regardless of gender.
Published on August 29, 2023.
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Avya Sood is a 19 year old student of Economics and Psychology from Punjab, India. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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