The gig economy, characterized by short-term contracts and freelance work, has been touted as the future of work. However, while it presents opportunities for flexibility and autonomy, it also perpetuates exploitation and inequality, particularly for women.
Women are disproportionately affected by the gig economy due to its inherent characteristics, such as instability, low wages, and a lack of benefits. A study by the TUC found that women are more likely to be in insecure work, with 54% of all women workers experiencing insecurity in their employment, compared to 44% of men. Moreover, research by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that in the US, women make up the majority of workers in low-wage industries, such as gig work, and earn less than men.
The lack of benefits and employment protections in gig work further disadvantages women. Gig workers are classified as independent contractors, meaning they are not entitled to healthcare, pension contributions, paid leave, or protections against discrimination. This disproportionately affects women, who are more likely to provide care for dependents and may require time off work for caregiving responsibilities. Additionally, pregnant women and new mothers are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, as they may not be able to access maternity leave or accommodations.
The gig economy also perpetuates exploitation in the form of wage theft, particularly for women of color. A study by the National Women’s Law Center found that women of color are more likely than white women to work for gig economy platforms that engage in wage theft, such as ride-hailing companies. Wage theft occurs when companies violate minimum wage laws or incorrectly classify workers as independent contractors, resulting in workers receiving low wages.
Furthermore, the gig economy perpetuates a culture of inequality, where women are undervalued and underrepresented. A 2018 study by Stanford University found that women are less likely than men to use gig economy platforms, and when they do, they earn less than men. Additionally, women are underrepresented in leadership roles within gig economy companies, such as CEOs and board members.
In conclusion, the gig economy fails women through perpetuating exploitation, inequality, and discrimination. Governments need to introduce policies that provide employment protections and benefits to gig workers, including paid leave and pensions. Gig economy platforms need to be held accountable for wage theft and discrimination, with penalties for those who violate worker’s rights. Additionally, employers should strive to create a more diverse and inclusive gig economy that values and rewards women’s contributions.