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How are freelance scientists feeling about the gig economy?

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The preliminary results of the initial study aiming to explore how science-based gig workers experience their work, the challenges they face, and the extent to which their working lives are characterised by positive and negative work perceptions have been released.

The research was titled, “Understanding the Work of Independent Scientists,” and was conducted by Kolabtree, a freelance platform for scientists, in collaboration with an international social science research team led by Brianna Caza at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Susan Ashford at the University of Michigan, Erin Reid at McMaster University, and Steven Granger at the University of Calgary.

542 independent scientists on Kolabtree took the survey, and the respondents had been working independently for an average of four and a half years.

Key findings

  • 79% of freelance scientists say they work independently by choice. Kolabtree respondents were highly educated, and worked in a variety of industries including pharmaceuticals, food science, medical science, biology, and psychology.
  • 73% of scientists said that they turn to freelancing to have the ability to work across geographical boundaries. Respondents were spread across the globe, with 41% working in North America and 22.5% living in Europe.
  • Over 90% said that flexibility is highly important.
  • 85% want to choose the projects they work on.
  • Over 50% of respondents took up freelance work only in their area of specialisation.
  • 42% said their independent work was a mix of gigs both inside and outside of their specialisation.
  • 56% of freelance scientists are optimistic about the future of the science gig economy.
  • 27% said that they planned to make the switch from a traditional career to full-time freelance work, while 12.3% did not, and 21% were unsure if they would make the switch.
  • 37% of respondents were earning between $35,000 and $100,000, 35% earning less than $20,000 per year, 16% earning between $20,000 and $34,999, and approximately 8% earning over $100,000.
  • Approximately 17% of respondents (n=81) said that they earned more in their freelance work than they had previously in a traditional role, 12% (n=55) earned about the same, 39% ( n=184) earned less than they did in a traditional role.

Ashmita Das, CEO and co-founder at Kolabtree, commented on the results: “The findings from the survey shows that scientists are actively looking for freelance opportunities where they can contribute their skills and expertise.

“The fact that scientists value flexibility, freedom and the ability to have control over what projects they take up is of great benefit to businesses looking to collaborate with experts across geographical boundaries.”

Independent scientists face multiple challenges including a lack of career security, financial unpredictability, and intellectual loneliness. These findings are from the initial part of a longer research study being conducted by Caza’s team. The research group will continue to study the challenges that independent scientists face, and the factors (socioeconomic, job characteristics, individual characteristics) that impact their experience, and their responses to these challenges.

Subsequent results will also explore the impact of the pandemic on remote/independent working for scientists and researchers.

Caza explained how the team’s interest is in “identifying the psychological, behavioural, and social factors that help independent scientists to bounce back from setbacks and thrive amidst the challenges of independent work.”



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The (possible) end to gig economy model

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By Dhivana Rajgopaul Time of article published34m ago

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CAPE TOWN – EVERYONE’S favourite transportation service just lost a major legal battle.

A week ago, former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yasseen Aslam achieved the outcome of their desire – a court ruling citing that drivers for the taxi company should be treated as workers rather than independent contractors.

This slight distinction could be the catalyst for major implications and come at a heavy cost to the firm.

Aslam and Farrah first took on Uber in 2016, contending that they were workers and should be entitled to minimum wage and paid leave.

Uber then lost a string of subsequent appeals, resulting in the latest judgment by the UK’s Supreme Court.

The basis of this ruling rests on five key reasons: First, the drivers have no say over their fares. Second, Uber imposes a standardised written agreement on its drivers. Third, they exercise extensive control over the drivers, including penalising drivers whose acceptance rates do meet Uber’s expectations. Fourth, Uber uses a rating system to dictate how drivers should deliver their service, and fifth, Uber restricts communication between driver and passenger, preventing the formation of any future relationship.

This led the Supreme Court to deduce that there is an imbalance of power in the firm.

The increasing hours spent on the platform along with the below-minimum pay means that drivers have no opportunity for entrepreneurship and improving their financial position. Farrar and Aslam are “thrilled and relieved” with this ruling.

“This is a win-win for drivers, passengers, and cities. It means Uber now has the correct economic incentives not to oversupply the market with too many vehicles and too many drivers.

“The upshot of that oversupply has been poverty, pollution, and congestion,” said Farrar.

Uber also commented on the ruling, saying: “We have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.”

The changes that lie ahead for Uber could be indicative of a bigger shift for the gig economy at large, encouraging similar claims from freelancers, online teachers and drivers from rival transport companies.

In fact, as of Thursday, South African human right’s attorneys have followed suit by filing a class action claim against Uber SA to have their drivers declared as employees in the Johannesburg Labour Court. The application will seek compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay. The case is being presented by Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys, assisted by Leigh Day.

“Uber operates a similar system in South Africa, with drivers using an app, which the UK Supreme Court concluded resulted in drivers’ work being “tightly defined and controlled” by Uber,” the attorneys said.

This posed the key issue of whether drivers contract with passengers using Uber as an agent, or alternatively that drivers are working for Uber, given they do not have the autonomy of a contract worker.

If the lawsuit is successful, there are approximately 12 000 to 20 000 drivers who will benefit from this outcome.

One thing is for certain, this court ruling definitely hones in the message that the misclassification of workers in the online and gig economy will no longer be tolerated, and the nature of modern working practices has to change.

BUSINESS REPORT



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Khaya Sithole: Taken for a ride by the gig economy – Mail and Guardian

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Deconstructing the gig economy | Yield PRO

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With control of Congress and the White House, Democrats are making labor policy one of their first priorities. Ironically enough, that’s actually bad news for independent contractors and gig economy workers across the country.

The legislation at the core of their agenda is the PRO Act, which Democrats just re-introduced with sponsors including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer. Among many other things, the bill would severely restrict the legal definition of independent contractors in a way that would largely end the gig economy as we know it.

The legislators’ stated intention is to protect workers and bolster their rights under law. Through the reclassification of independent contractors, Democrats hope to force gig economy companies to hire workers as full employees and thus provide them the accompanying salaries and benefits.

“The men and women of labor are the backbone of our economy and the foundation of our strength,” Pelosi said. “With American workers seeing their lives and livelihoods devastated by the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis, the reintroduction of the PRO Act is more important than ever.

“I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to put more money in the pockets of hard-working Americans, creating a foundation that provides livable wages to our families,” Schumer added.

The context here is crucial, because this legislation isn’t coming out of nowhere. It’s modeled after a similar but highly controversial California bill, AB 5, that likewise forced the reclassification of independent contractors.

President Biden supported AB 5 at the time, and is on the record supporting the PRO Act, too. And now that Democrats control Congress, it could pass the House and find support from the White House.

The only question would be whether it could make it through the closely-divided Senate.

It’s worth examining the sweeping impact this legislation would have on the economy.

Millions of jobs outlawed with the stroke of the pen

The PRO Act would outlaw millions of existing jobs with the stroke of the president’s pen.

After all, it would make illegal any independent contractor arrangement where the worker provides services within “the usual course of the business of the employer,” meaning jobs like Uber drivers, Doordash drivers, Instacart grocery deliverers, and more could not exist as we know them. There are roughly 10.6 million independent contractors in the US, accounting for 6.9 percent of all employment. Some of these workers might not be affected by the law and some others may get hired on as full-time as a result. But there’s little doubt that millions more would find themselves unemployed.

For example, Uber alone employs more than 1 million drivers in the US. It’s nearly certain they would all lose their jobs under the PRO Act, because Uber already runs a loss, not a profit, and adding an independent contractor as a full staff member counts roughly $3,625 per driver. Basic math tells you that most of these workers would end up being let go; Uber could even go under. After all, the California legislation nearly forced Uber and Lyft to shut down operations in the Golden State altogether until a last-minute ballot referendum modified the law.

Uber is just one company and one example. But freelance workers such as journalists, photographers, florists, musicians and more all lost work in California under legislation similar to the PRO Act.

“Transcription allowed me to stay at home, be my own boss, and control my workflow and whom I work with,” 72-year-old transcriptionist Dori Lehner told the Independent Women’s Forum. “I only have one direct client now, and I only get work when they have it. My income has dropped down to a quarter of what it was before AB5.”

“A mom-and-pop studio can’t hire me and put me on payroll for a one or two hour lecture that I do once per month,” part-time yoga instructor Jennifer O’Connell said.

“That’s wiped out so much work,” she added, explaining that she’s lost roughly three-fourths of her freelance income.

The authors of AB 5 and the PRO Act likely earnestly believed they were going to help workers like Lehner and O’Connell. But the ugly results of their policy naivete will leave many like them unemployed instead.

Unintended consequences always plague big government regulation

The lesson here is clear. The Democrats’ latest labor proposal is a case study in unintended consequences, which inevitably plague big-government interventions into a vast and diverse economy.

“Economic policies need to be analyzed in terms of the incentives they create, rather than the hopes that inspired them,” famed free-market economist Thomas Sowell wrote. “The programs that are being labeled for the poor, for the needy, almost always have effects exactly the opposite of those which their well-intentioned sponsors hope them to have.”

“It’s not enough… to endorse legislation that has a nice title and promises to do something good,” economist Robert P. Murphy wrote. “People need to think through the full consequences of a policy, because often it will lead to a cure worse than the disease.”

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer clearly haven’t thought this through. If the PRO Act becomes law, it won’t help independent workers—it will eliminate their jobs or strip them of the flexibility that attracted them to the gig economy in the first place.


Source Brad Polumbo, fee.org

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