New study by YouGov for Sensée shows 39% of consumers concerned about companies using gig economy workers
The voices heard most loudly in the gig economy discussion so far have been those of employees, employers and the government.
As a customer service business, we thought it would be useful to discover what consumers think as well. You have to look no further than Primark and Sports Direct to see how unpopular employment practices negatively affected their brand reputation, customer satisfaction and sales.
Are consumers indifferent on the issue of gig economy workers, and happy to continue with businesses that use them? Or, is there real concern that could begin to put customers off? We asked well-known pollsters YouGov to find out.
Half of consumers aware of the gig economy
Although the gig economy has had a lot of publicity, there still seems to be a lack of awareness of what it really is and how it works. Only 50% of the 2,033 respondents agreed that they knew about the gig economy – in fact only 17% strongly agreed with the statement “I know about the gig economy and what the possible implications may be for workers, businesses and public services.”
“Only 17% strongly agreed with the statement “I know about the gig economy and what the possible implications may be for workers, businesses and public services.”
This was reflected across all the different demographic segments within the survey and results were similar amongst factors such as age and employment status. Few of the significant differences were in social classes (57% ABC1 vs 41% C2DE) and across areas of the country (London 61% vs. Midlands 41%), however there was a significant gender difference (Male 54% and Female 46%).
This could be due to the proliferation of higher profile services in the South East and conurbations, but it is surprising that there isn’t an even higher awareness amongst millennials as this demographic is widely thought to be both suppliers to, and consumers of, the ‘on demand’ economy.
Most wouldn’t want to be a gig economy worker
The survey highlighted a general reluctance amongst the general public to work in the gig economy. Only 27% agreed that “they would be happy to be self-employed and work as part of the gig economy, as either a main or supplementary source of income,” with 41% disagreeing and a further third (31%) undecided.
Only 27% of respondents agreed that “they would be happy to be self-employed and work as part of the gig economy, as either a main or supplementary source of income.”
For the people that said that they knew about the gig economy and how it works, the responses were polarised, with 33% saying that they would be happy to work in the gig economy, but with 49% disagreeing. These responses don’t vary significantly by gender but, unsurprisingly, 18-24 year olds are more likely to be happy to be self-employed and work as part of the gig economy (33%). However, this tails off as people get older with only 25% of 55+ respondents stating that they would be happy to do so.
This response – i.e. more people saying they wouldn’t work in the gig economy than would – remains steady across pretty much all the other demographic splits except for two potentially interesting areas. Firstly, people who are currently out of work, but don’t classify themselves as unemployed (34%), and secondly, those who have children under 5 (34%), are the few segments in which more people would work in the gig economy than wouldn’t.
This could be a very important finding and one that maybe goes against a prevailing argument that the majority of people currently working in the gig economy do so out of choice. People who are out of work but don’t classify themselves as unemployed could represent a group of eminently employable people who may be unable to conform with the requirements of a ‘normal’ job, but who still want to work. Similarly, parents with children under 5, maybe constrained by the responsibilities of caring for small children, still want to or need to work, but require the flexibility around working hours and/or location that gig economy work offers.
Considerable concern about companies using gig economy workers
We also asked people what they thought of the companies that employed people on this basis and the results were pretty unequivocal with 39% agreeing that they were “concerned about using companies that employ/commission gig economy workers,” and only 17% disagreeing with that statement and a further 45% undecided or don’t know. Again, the impact of awareness is important, and the 39% that agreed to that statement further increased to 52% for those people who responded that they were aware of the gig economy.
39% agreed that they were “concerned about using companies that employ/commission gig economy workers.”
One of the most significant differences in responses were when segmenting by age, where 32% of 18-24 year olds agreed, compared to 43% of those aged 55 or over. Whilst this is likely to be a true reflection of their concerns, it may be because as consumers, they could likely be swayed by a lower price and increased convenience more often than not.
Good for businesses, bad for workers
More people agreed (33%) than not (20%) that “the gig economy was good for UK businesses and organisations,” but that at the same time more people agreed that “the gig economy is bad for people who choose to be gig economy workers” (34% v 16%). Further, a majority of respondents believed that gig economy workers should have the same benefits as traditional workers (access to public services, benefits and pensions) (55%) even if they contributed less, proportionately, in tax and national insurance and that the “UK government should do more to protect the rights of gig economy workers” (68%).
More people agreed (33%) than not (20%) that “the gig economy was good for UK businesses and organisations,” but that at the same time more people agree that “the gig economy is bad for people who choose to be gig economy workers” (34% v 16%).
These potentially conflicting viewpoints, start to unravel the crux of the problem in that if there are three parties involved, companies, governments and workers, the rewards and costs of the gig economy are not currently being shared equally. If you add in a fourth party, the customer, it could be argued that companies and customers are the ones that benefit and reap the rewards, while the government, in reduced tax and national insurance income, and workers, with reduced income, security and rights, are bearing the cost.
About the research
The research was conducted by YouGov for Sensée on 1-2 June 2017. The sample size was 2033 adults (18+) from across Great Britain. The surveys were conducted online and the results have been weighted to the profile of all GB adults (18+). The worst-case margin of error is ± 2.2% at a 95% confidence level.