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Gig workers in US and UK would take less pay for steady work

July 02, 2019

Gig workers and freelancers would prefer steady employment even if it meant lower pay, according to a report released today by the Centre for Economic Performance, a research organization that is part of the London School of Economics.

The findings are based on a survey of more than 4,000 UK and US workers about their current work arrangements and the job attributes they most want.

“Workers like knowing when their next pay check is coming, where it’s coming from and how much it will be,” said Nikhil Datta, researcher at the Centre for Economic Performance and author of the report. “They value these, and other aspects of job security like sick leave and paid holiday, far more than flexibility and being their own boss. This finding holds even for many of the gig workers, freelancers and self-employed.”

The report found that US and UK workers would give up approximately 50% of their hourly wage for a permanent contract over a one-month one.

When it comes to holiday and sick pay, UK workers were willing to give up approximately 35% of their hourly wage for those while in the US, 27% of workers said the same.

Datta’s report found that US and UK workers valued job stability to similar extents, and US workers showed a preference to adopt many of the UK’s standards on benefits such as paid holiday and health leave.

“It was surprising to see that workers in the US valued holiday and sick pay almost the same amount as UK workers, as there is no federal regulation for this in the US,” Datta said. “It suggests that American workers would be in favor of institutional change on this front.”

In the UK, the report found that self-employment, including freelancers, rose 25% since the turn of the millennium, and zero-hour contracts have increased to almost a million now from 200,000 in the year 2000. Zero-hour contracts offer more flexibility but often come with lower wages, less security and no holiday or sick pay.

“In the UK we’ve seen a large increase in the number of self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts. This phenomenon isn’t to do with workers wanting these jobs, it appears to be due to a lack of other secure options,” Datta said. “Policies recommended in the Taylor review [a government review of modern working practices], such as securing precarious workers’ rights closer to traditional employees and giving workers the ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours should be given serious consideration.”

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