How the ‘gig economy’ has changed work and the economy.

How the ‘gig economy’ has changed work and the economy.

Firstly, you’re probably wondering what this whole “gig economy” means.  It’s actually a buzz phrase, first coined at the height of the financial crisis when a number of workers started ‘gigging’ and working many casual jobs to stay afloat financially. Today, it is more recognised with people freelancing who are seeking more flexible and diversified work and working hours especially within the rapidly growing digital platforms.   These platforms allow freelancers to directly connect with potential employers to find employment.  Hence the term ‘gig workers”.  Great examples of these digital platforms are companies such as Uber, Airtasker and Deliveroo who are changing  traditional markets.

With this growing trend legislation also needs to be updated to reflect these abovementioned changes and it has, but it has been slow. Internationally, we have seen disagreement over gig workers classifications as either ‘employees’ or ‘independent contractors’. The most recent ruling by Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman in June 2019 found Uber drivers to be independent contractors because there is not “an obligation for an employee to perform work when it is demanded by the employer”, as reported by Stuart Ridley.

A survey commissioned by the Victorian government published in June 2019, found 7.1% of Australians reportedly used a digital platform such as Airtasker (34.8%), Uber (22.7%), Freelancer (11.8%), Uber Eats (10.8%), Deliveroo (8.2%) for work. This report further found 64.8% of gig economy workers to access work via one platform opposed to 35.2% who accessed work through more than one platform and 11.4% who are registered on four or more platforms.

This however has forced changed to be made in the definition of work reviewing the definition of ‘casual’ work to ensure legislation applies to capture gig workers under workplace health and safety, improve superannuation rights and ensure protection under Australia’s industrial relations system. Simona Scattagalia Cartago says, “Getting a real measure of this global phenomenon is not easy, especially when some may underestimate its true size by considering only gig work as a primary source of income. In the US, more than 35% of the workforce seems to be participating in the gig economy, and that number is expected to jump to 43% by 2020.”

This however is also causing issues regarding superannuation. The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) noted almost a quarter of self-employed people to have no super and less likely to meet the $450 per month earning threshold with any one employer as recorded in February 2018. It has been suggested a new ‘dependant contractor’ category to be made, ditching the earning threshold.

Further taxation issues have arisen from this new gig economy with the Australian Tax Office (ATO) updating guidelines for people earning income via digital platforms to also include ride sharing, short-term property or room rentals or skills on demand, as changed in June 2019. The ATO warn they will be matching data earnings from such above-mentioned platforms.

If you want to know more about how to navigate through these gig economy changes, please get in touch with the team via email or phone us 02 9415 1511. Speak soon!

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