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Gig workers in Australia during COVID-19 pandemic - a decent work perspective
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, precarious work arrangements in the gig economy posed concerns for policy makers and labour scholars globally. During the COVID-19 pandemic, due to restricted social interactions, gig platform companies continued to grow, especially in frontline delivery such as food and parcel services. The increased relevance of frontline gig work, and the growing number of gig workers, transformed the world of work during the pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that the expansion of the gig platform economy during the pandemic has not helped improve the work and wage conditions of its workers. The International Labour Organization (ILO) anticipates that the platform economy has the capability to contribute to achieve the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and its Goal 8, Decent Work (DW) for All. As a founding member and a key contributor to UN and ILO, Australia is committed to the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the ILO’s DW Agenda. However, there is a lack of understanding and knowledge regarding the DW experience of gig workers in Australia. Employing ILO’s DW lens, this study examines the work and wage conditions in the Australian gig economy during the pandemic. Notably, this was the time when the Australian gig economy reported unprecedented growth. Using a qualitative research design, this study reviews 123 documents including news articles and institutional documents. The findings indicate how inadequate legislation and insufficient regulation, combined with non-compliances by stakeholders and oligopsony-like market conditions, led to DW deficits for gig workers in Australia. This study highlights the seemingly legitimate and legally valid contractual work arrangements as the prime source of DW deficits in the Australian gig economy. This study establishes the relevance of DW for the well-being and work fulfilment of gig workers and contributes to the DW discourse in the gig economy.