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24 Mar 2020

Christi Nortier, Daily Maverick (South Africa)

So. Africa: Research finds gig workers most vulnerable to infection & loss of income during the Covid-19 crisis

‘SA gig workers may be vital, and yet vulnerable, during the pandemic’ 20 March 2020

Gig workers in South Africa are some of the most vulnerable to infection and loss of income during the Covid-19 pandemic. This precarity is nothing new, says a team of researchers who study the fairness of gig work around the world under the banner of the Fairwork Project.  The Fairwork Project has for the past two years done research into the fairness of gig work in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Fairwork’s researchers hail from the universities of Oxford, Cape Town, the Western Cape and Manchester.  They assess the fairness of gig work offered by digital labour platforms and give them a score. Their research focuses on labour-broking digital platforms such as Uber which connect gig workers with jobs. 

… Gig workers are already burdened with low pay, unsafe working conditions, disjointed management and few channels to organise and bargain as a collective in South Africa. Much of this depends entirely on the platform the workers are contracted to, according to the report… Based on their research, they argue that workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus because they interact with so many people on a daily basis when delivering food, driving customers or cleaning their homes. 

… In addition, gig workers don’t have access to unemployment benefits. This means they might work even when they fall ill because they do not get paid sick leave. This is exacerbated if they have to pay a monthly lease on equipment.  They too may need to stay home to care for children, the elderly or the sick. They have to choose between caring for their loved ones or getting an income.