The major objectives of this paper are threefold. First, the paper captures and explains the recent growth trends of independent workers, working as freelancers for corporations, and offering on-demand services for various types of clients mediated by App-enabled platform companies. Second, the paper discusses different terminologies used to describe independent workers and highlights the emergence of a new category of independent on-demand workers, the employment status of whom is a subject of current empirical and academic debate. Finally, the paper discusses the emergence of an increasing number of collective actions recently taken by on-demand workers against platform companies over worsened level of wages, undesirable terms and conditions of work, and inadequate workers’ protection, and examines their implications for the discipline of employee relations.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alton, L. (2017). How millennials are reshaping what's important in corporate culture. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryalton/2017/06/20/how-millennials-are-reshaping-whats-important-in-corporate-culture/; https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2017/06/13/new-study-why-self-employment-keeps-accelerating/#59ec49f56ac8 (Accessed on 29 January 2018).
Anonymous (2016). Welcome to the future of work. Management Today. June.
Burke, P. (2017). Former Uber driver not entitled to unemployment benefits, appellate court rules. Local10.com . 1 February 2017. https://www.local10.com/lifestyle/legal-news/former-uber-driver-not-entitled-to-unemployment-benefits-appellate-court-rules (Accessed on 9 May2018).
Cant, C. (2017a). I’m a Deliveroo rider. Collective action is the only way we’ll get a fair deal. The Guardian, 31 March. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/31/deliveroo-organising-wages-conditions-gig-economy (Accessed on 30 April 2018).
Cant, C. (2017b). Precarious couriers are leading the struggle against platform capitalism. Political Critique, 3 August, https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/precarious-couriers -are-leading-the-struggle-against-platform-capitalism/2017/08/24 (Accessed on 30 April 2018).
Cilluffo, A. and Cohn D’ Vera (2017). 10 demographic trends shaping the US and the world in 2017. Pew Research Centre. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/10-demographic-trends-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world-in-2017/ (Accessed on 29 January 2018).
Dearden, L. (2017). Uber ordered to treat drivers as workers with full rights after losing appeal in landmark case. Independent Business News. 10 November. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uber-drivers-employees-full-rights-court-appeal-lose-ordered-treat-ride-sharing-app-taxi-a8047316.html (Accessed on 10 May 2018).
Deloitte (2016). The 2016 Deloitte millennial survey: Winning over the next generation of leaders. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
Deloitte (2017). The 2017 Deloitte millennial survey: Apprehensive millennials: Seeking stability and opportunities in an uncertain world. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
Eisenbrey, R., & Mishel, L. (2016). Uber business model does not justify a new “independent worker” category. Economic Policy Institute, Washington, DC. http://www.epi.org/publication/uber-businessmodel-does-not-justify-a-new-independent-worker-category (Accessed on 9 May 2018).
Freelancers Union. (2017). Freelancing in America: 2017. In Freelancers Union & Upwork.
Harris, S. D. and Krueger, A. B. (2015). A proposal for moderning labor laws for twenty-first-century work: The “independent worker”. A Discussion Paper for the Hamilton Project, December.
Healy, J., Nicholson, D., & Pekarek, A. (2017). Should we take the gig economy seriously? Labour & Industry, 27, 232–248.
Kalanick, T. (2016). Growing and growing up. UBER Newsroom, 21 April. https://newsroom.uber.com/growing-and-growing-up/ (Accessed on 16 August 2016).
Liakopoulos, A., Barry, L., & Schwartz, J. (2013). The open talent economy: People and work in a borderless workplace. Deloitte Development LLC. pp., 1–12.
Magee, T. (2016). The Deliveroo drivers strike: a milestone in the sharing economy. TechWorld, 22 August, IDG. https://www.techworld.com/apps-wearables/deliveroo-drivers-strike-collective-action-in-uncharted-waters-3645346 (Accessed on 30 April 2018).
MBO Partners (2018). https://www.mbopartners.com/blog/whats-my-type-defining-the-independent-worker (Accessed on 14 April 2018).
MGI. (2016). Independent work: Choice, necessity and the gig economy (pp. 1–134). McKinsey Global Institute: October.
Pofeldt, E. (2017a). New study: Why self-employment keeps accelerating. Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2017/06/13/new-study-why-self-employment-keeps-accelerating/#59ec49f56ac8 (Accessed on 3 January 2018).
Pofeldt, E. (2017b). The powerful trend that will soon make the freelance life easier. Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2017/09/27/the-powerful-trend-that-will-soon-make-the-freelance-life-easier/2/#4148edf54e3f (Accessed on 3 January 2018).
Stewart, A., & Stanford, J. (2017). Regulating work in the gig economy: What are the options? The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 28, 420–437.
Wong, J. C. (2016). Uber reaches $100m settlement in fight with drivers, who will stay contractors. The Guardian, 22 April. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/21/uber-driver-settlement-labor-dispute-california-massachusetts (Accessed on 16 Aug 2016).
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by either of the authors. There were no individual participants in this study and, thus, informed consent does not apply to this study.
About this article
Cite this article
Poon, T.SC. Independent Workers: Growth Trends, Categories, and Employee Relations Implications in the Emerging Gig Economy. Employ Respons Rights J 31, 63–69 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10672-018-9318-8
- Independent workers
- on-demand work
- employee relations
- gig economy