Gig economy inquiry to host worker forum

Inquiry into the on-demand workforce in Victoria calls for ‘gig economy’ workers to join online forum.

The inquiry into the on-demand workforce in Victoria is calling for ‘gig economy’ workers to join a live online forum next week.

Former Fair Work Ombudsman and chair of inquiry Natalie James is encouraging workers to join the live conversation on Monday, August 19, to discuss their experiences undertaking on-demand work.

The inquiry, launched in December 2018, is investigating the extent of the on-demand sector, which covers businesses such as on-demand ride-sharing and food-delivery services, and the status of people working with or for online companies or platforms in Victoria.

In June, a survey jointly conducted by Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and University of Technology Sydney, found up to 7 per cent of working Australians have found work though the gig economy over the past 12 months.

The survey of more than 14,000 people was commissioned by the Labor Government to support the inquiry, and was the largest ever published survey regarding the on-demand economy.

According to the findings 7.1 per cent of respondents use a digital platform for work, or have done so in the past 12 months. More than 13 per cent of survey respondents have, at some time, undertaken digital platform work.

The five most common platforms used by workers within the last 12 months were Airtasker (34.8 per cent), Uber (22.7 per cent), Freelancer (11.8 per cent), Uber Eats (10.8 per cent) and Deliveroo (8.2 per cent).

In May the inquiry announced it had received almost 100 submissions from workers, unions, businesses and academics, with the exploitation of staff and unfair business advantage a major themes of the submissions.

Another theme from the submissions was that, without access to minimum employment standards or collective bargaining, workers in the gig economy could be vulnerable to exploitation.

One assessment was that three out of four surveyed workers are being paid under the minimum rate for casuals.

On the flip side, more traditional businesses explained their on-demand competitors are not required to comply with the same employment and other workplace laws and so have lower costs, which creates an uneven playing field.

Several submissions, including from gig economy businesses, highlighted the benefits of the on-demand economy to offer opportunities to grow markets, improve services and create jobs.

They acknowledged that there can be significant benefits when traditional businesses partner with on-demand platforms.

To find out more about the forum, visit: https://engage.vic.gov.au/inquiry-on-demand-workforce

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