1 March 2021 - Written by Hamideh Iraj
On-Demand Workforce in Victoria
In 2018, the Victorian Government announced the establishment of an independent inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce. The report of the inquiry was published in June 2020. It delved into the on-demand workforce in Australia and tried to draw a complete picture of what is happening and what the current trends in the gig economy are. According to the inquiry report, platform work is a small but growing part of the labour market. State and federal governments in Australia need to research this part of the economy in order to make decisions and devise policies based on evidence and hence create the legal and social infrastructure for a healthy economy that serves all Australian residents.
Platforms came in with the promise of developing the economy via matching supply and demand and fostering new economic transactions, taking advantage of under-utilised resources such as people’s time, skills and personal assets; transactions that could not have happened in the pre-internet era. However, platforms that were once reserved for odd jobs took over a larger share of the economy and replaced secure and meaningful jobs.
At the personal level, platforms encouraged people to join the gig economy to work flexibly and be their own boss. The idea seemed attractive as people were interested in earning extra money out of a part-time job and enjoy doing odd jobs. However, the report revealed that the gig economy platforms put people in an insecure situation and vulnerable status, especially younger gig workers, migrant workers and women workers. These potentially vulnerable groups choose gig working because of limited suitable alternatives. Gig platforms also reinforce biases and gender stereotypes existing in the out-of-platform world, so the gender pay gap is reproduced in these platforms. Although the inquiry report does not explicitly talk about the COOP business model, it recognises the need for legal and regulatory frameworks and alternative business models to combine the convenience and scalability of platforms with new business practices to protect the rights of gig workers such as minimum wage, insurance coverage and superannuation.
Reference: Report of the Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce (2020), ISBN 978-1-925789-53-9, available at https://engage.vic.gov.au/inquiry-on-demand-workforce