For years, it’s been claimed that platform work could help people meet their financial needs in a crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted economies and labor markets worldwide. As the world’s biggest economic shock in a hundred years, it provided an opportunity to better understand the role that platform work can play in supporting financial resilience.

To explore the adaptability of platform work in response to a major crisis and uncover insights about work on rideshare and delivery platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic, in early 2021, we asked Accenture to survey nearly 5,000 workers across six countries, analyze our administrative data covering 7 million workers, and review the emerging literature on labor market impacts.

The results of Accenture’s research offers a number of insights on the experience of the rideshare drivers and delivery people who worked on Uber’s platform during the first year of the pandemic:

Platform work provided access to income, acting as an alternative source of financial security. More than three in four (78%) new platform workers said platform work was an important or essential source of income during the pandemic. Across countries, between 51% and 79% of new platform workers surveyed reported being ineligible for government support or not being able to access support. As a result, most (79%) agreed that platform work acted as a financial safety net during the pandemic.

Platform work helped people stay connected to the labor market. Workers surveyed for the report who lost a job during the pandemic before joining platform work indicated that a connection to the labor market helped them to maintain skills, motivation, and work habits. Platform work can also help improve employability: 65% of platform workers who joined during the pandemic agreed that they gained valuable skills from platform work that can help their future work prospects.

Platform work during the first year of the pandemic was more than a means to an end: it was satisfying work that fulfilled worker needs. One of the consistently reported benefits of platform work prior to the pandemic across each of the countries was flexibility or the ability to be your own boss. During the pandemic, the flexibility offered by platform work was considered very valuable by the workers surveyed. On average, 81% of new platform workers reported that the flexibility to start and stop work at their discretion has helped them to manage the health risks associated with COVID-19.

While platform work has been resilient, it has not been immune to the impacts of COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic. Local health and macroeconomic conditions, as well as industrial factors, all played a role in how platform work changed during the pandemic. For example, stricter COVID-19 lockdown periods coincided with larger declines in the number of active rideshare workers, while sign-ups for delivery were highest when unemployment was highest.

This report seeks to draw out some initial findings on the role that platform work played in providing options for work and income during the pandemic across a range of countries. It is important to note that each of the countries in this study are at different stages of their COVID-19 response and recovery trajectories, and further insights and more research will emerge over time. 

As we move into further stages of the pandemic response or recovery, we very much see this as the start of a wider discussion and look forward to hearing perspectives of researchers and thought leaders as more data emerges. 

You can read Accenture’s report here.

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