​Opinion - A Deep Dive into the Plight of Food Delivery Workers

​Opinion - A Deep Dive into the Plight of Food Delivery Workers

Posted by Stelios on 16th May 2024

Recent research by the City University of New York (CUNY) paints a distressing picture of the gig economy landscape for food delivery workers in New York City. This study, detailed in the Journal of Urban Health, reveals alarmingly high rates of injuries and assaults among gig workers, especially those for whom gig work is not just a sideline but their primary source of income.

The CUNY study, which surveyed 1,650 food delivery workers between October and December 2021, found that approximately 22% of respondents reported injuries and 21% reported assaults while on the job. The risks were particularly stark for those using two-wheeled transport such as e-bikes or mopeds, who faced more than twice the likelihood of injury or assault compared to their counterparts in cars. This statistic becomes even more concerning, considering that over two-thirds of those surveyed rely on gig work as their main or only source of income.

The flexibility promised by gig platforms often masks the harsh realities these workers face. Contrary to the platforms' portrayal of gig work as a supplementary income source, the study reveals the stories of workers who are entirely dependent on this unstable and risky job. These workers, who are predominantly from racialised minority groups and often have limited English proficiency, are finding themselves in precarious situations without adequate protections.

This scenario raises crucial questions about the broader implications of such work conditions, mainly as similar gig economy models are prevalent in the UK. The lack of fundamental worker rights and protections for gig workers is a growing concern globally. In the UK, debates around the status of gig workers and their rights have been intensifying, with several legal challenges seeking to reclassify gig workers as employees to ensure they receive fair wages, sick pay, and other benefits.

As we examine the findings from New York City, it's essential to scrutinise whether the UK is likely to face similar challenges. There are already signs that the gig economy is expanding in identical patterns, with increasing numbers of people relying on gig jobs for their primary income. The critical question remains: Will the UK learn from the experiences in the US, or are we destined to repeat the same mistakes, prioritising profit over the well-being of workers?

The situation calls for immediate action to address these disparities and ensure that gig workers receive the protections they deserve. This includes reevaluating gig workers' classification, implementing stringent safety regulations, and ensuring adequate compensation and benefits that reflect their risks.

As we continue to rely more on gig economy services, it becomes imperative to safeguard those who power this sector. The sustainability of the gig economy hinges on our ability to protect and value our workers, not exploit them. This study serves as a crucial wake-up call: it's time to reframe how we view gig work and the people who do it. Only then can we begin to progress towards a truly sustainable and equitable gig economy.