Coronavirus pandemic has led to more ‘microwork’ – study shows

The coronavirus pandemic has led to more people choosing to become “microworkers”, according to a new study.

The use of digital platforms to get paid for short tasks such as coding, translation, surveys and image identification has provided new opportunities for workers to participate in the labor market, but has also exacerbated inequalities in the job market, experts said.

A total of 36% of those who took part in a new survey said they started microworking during the pandemic. Several participants mentioned the Covid pandemic as an important factor in their reason for starting microwork.

Almost all of those who took part in the research – 95% – earned less than minimum wage for microwork and almost 2 in 3 earned less than £4 an hour. Half also had full-time work, 29 percent had part-time or casual work, and only 20 percent had no other paid work.

Most of those who participated in the research wanted to earn extra income, and their microwork was in addition to other paid work.

Researchers from think tank Autonomy, the University of Exeter and the London School of Economics surveyed 1,189 UK-based workers on three major microwork platforms: Clickworker, Prolific and Amazon Mechanical Turk. They also conducted 17 in-depth interviews.

Dr. James Muldon, from the University of Exeter, said: “This report provides one of the first comprehensive analyzes of microwork in the UK. While micro-workers in other parts of the world work long hours and rely heavily on income from their platform work to meet their basic needs, UK-based workers tend to work fewer hours. hours and see their work on the platform as a supplement to other sources of income. income, even full-time jobs. Many workers we interviewed explicitly referred to their work on the platforms as a “side job” and only one source of income among others. »

The workers were divided between different social classes and formations. People from low-income backgrounds were the most likely to view microwork as an essential income, while those with higher incomes were less dependent on microwork to pay for basic goods.

The micro-workers were generally well-educated, with more than 60% of them holding a higher education degree and more than 20% a postgraduate degree. Having a higher education degree did not allow workers to earn higher salaries on platforms or engage in different types of work.

More than half of respondents said they preferred working outside of an office and one in three wanted to work at a time that was convenient for them.

A total of 53% of respondents had done microtasks for less than a year, while 15% had done microtasks for more than three years. Most had worked irregular hours, with more than 64% having no fixed hours for their microwork and less than 10% engaging in microwork during working hours.

Most workers did not report working very long hours on microwork platforms. One in three worked only one hour or less per week, while more than half worked between one and ten hours per week. Only 10% worked more than 10 hours per week.

The report recommends that micro-workers be offered a “research fee” and payment for pre-task testing so that all time “on the job” is financially compensated. It also outlines a range of policies that could help improve working conditions for microworkers in the UK.

This includes rating systems for contractors and messaging systems for workers so that micro-workers are better placed to organize themselves to improve working conditions and spot bad employers.

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