The Ethical Debate about the Gig Economy

A major socio-technological phenomenon of recent years has been the rapid growth of digital platforms that support flexible, on-demand, and typically short-term work (‘gigs’) across an expanding range of industries. This so-called ‘gig economy’ encompasses popular ride-sharing platforms, such as Lyft and Uber; micro-work platforms, such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk; and ‘crowd work’ platforms, such as Fiverr and Upwork, amongst others. The gig economy is a significant and growing phenomenon, which involves directly or indirectly millions of people, and modifies one of the most fundamental aspects of modern economy and society, the labour market.

Because of the scope and depth of its impact, the gig economy raises important ethical issues. This project aims to highlight the ethical debates surrounding the gig economy. It does this by first framing the gig economy in terms of its definition, size, and global impact. Then it looks to map key ethical debates of the gig economy onto three categories: the new nature of work, the new organisation of work, and the new status of workers. Finally, we evaluate a recent initiative taken in responding to the challenges of the gig economy.