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The true cost of the essential worker during Covid-19

Gig economy workers have kept our cities going during the pandemic... but at what price?

Melissa w July 9, 2020

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During the Covid-19 lockdown, we reached out to some of you and asked you to share your stories on the impact the pandemic has been having on you we also carried out an online survey. The results showed the true resilience and flexibility of our gig economy workers during the outbreak.

It was important for us to reach out, because not only do gig economy workers make up a large part of our customer base, but we sincerely believe they deserve continued support and recognition, even well beyond this crisis.

We did some digging...

To truly begin to appreciate our essential workers, we thought it necessary to explore what it’s taken for them to keep our cities powered and the economy moving though at a much slower pace than we’d like.

Impacted wages

Our findings showed that during the lockdown period, income dropped by 9% for gig economy workers in the UK. While the average income in a typical month was £1,134 after taxes, in March 2020, it fell to £1,037. Gig economy workers in Scotland took the biggest hit with their wages dropping a significant 15%.


This decrease in wages poses a serious problem. Many also told us that they don’t have enough savings to last them long should they lose their job during the crisis:

  • Almost three in ten (27%) said they only have enough savings to survive for one month or less if out of work.
  • One in ten (12%) would only survive for up to 2 weeks.
  • A quarter (25%) said they had zero savings to fall back on.

While nearly half (49%) admitted to feeling worried about their work as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, interestingly, the health of the nation was of greater concern than their wellbeing. People told us that they were more concerned about the impact the outbreak has had on general public health (61%) than on their job or income (33%).

Strength, resilience and flexibility

To also prove the flexibility and agility of these workers, almost one in three (30%) said that if they lose their job, they’d take any job available:

  • 29% said they’d consider becoming a delivery driver.
  • One in three (33%) would take a job as a cleaner.
  • ver half (59%) would apply for any job in a supermarket.

Safety concerns

Survey results also showed that one in three (32%) of gig economy workers didn't feel safe going to work but felt they had to because they needed the income. Some other statistics taken from the survey regarding safety issues include the following:

  • 29% continued working without protective gear (gloves, mask, hand sanitiser).
  • More than one in 20 (6%) continued to work with suspected Covid-19 symptoms.
  • Nearly six in ten (57%) don’t believe they’re getting paid enough for the health risk they’re currently taking at work.

Feeling undervalued

Almost half (45%) of gig economy workers thought their significant role of keeping the economy going would continue to be recognised by the UK public when the outbreak is over. However, 49% thought the Government would not continue to recognise their positive role in the crisis.

And it seems that gig economy workers don't feel protected by the Government's response. They think the late delivery of the self-employed financial scheme has created an 'upstairs-downstairs' social divide between those employed and those self-employed:

  • Almost half (48%) said that the Government's support scheme for the self-employed isn't useful to them.
  • One in six (15%) said that the scheme doesn’t support them in the way they need support.
  • Eight per cent were worried that compensation would not reach them until June.
  • One in 15 (7%) said they weren’t eligible for the scheme as they had registered as self-employed after the cut-off date.

Our takeaway

It’s impossible to ignore the essential role millions of gig economy workers are playing in keeping our cities going at this critical time, at the sacrifice of their own health. Many of whom are currently juggling two or three jobs to make ends meet. The coronavirus crisis has certainly highlighted who these essential workers really are - some of the lowest-paid people we depend on are the people who’ve continued to power our cities throughout this global crisis. From frontline workers in transport, retail and food, it’s the millions of self-employed taxi drivers, couriers and delivery workers who’ve helped keep food on our supermarket shelves and enabled the rest of us to carry out social-distancing safely.

We often take the people powering our cities for granted. They’re the engine room of the economy. We receive parcels at all hours, our shelves are full and drivers deliver. Perhaps for the first time, we realise the role they play in keeping our cities moving and come together to recognise their monumental efforts. We hope that society will continue to appreciate all their hard work even once this crisis is over.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who responded to our email and participated in our research. Most of all, thank you for keeping our cities going.

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