Gig Economy; Financial Precarity; Health and Well-Being; COVID-19
The authors set out to explore how precarious workers, particularly those employed in the gig economy, balance financial uncertainty, health risks, and mental well-being. The authors surveyed and interviewed precarious workers in France during the COVID-19 crisis, in March and April 2020.The authors oversampled gig economy workers, in particular in driving and food delivery occupations (hereafter drivers and bikers), residing in metropolitan areas. These workers cannot rely on stable incomes and are excluded from the labor protections offered to employees, features which have been exacerbated by the crisis. The authors analyzed outcomes for precarious workers during the mandatory lockdown in France as an extreme case to better understand how financial precarity relates to health risks and mental well-being. The authors' analysis revealed that 3 weeks into the lockdown, 56% of our overall sample had stopped working and respondents had experienced a 28% income drop on average. Gig economy drivers reported a significant 20 percentage point larger income decrease than other workers in our sample. Bikers were significantly more likely to have continued working outside the home during the lockdown. Yet the authors' quantitative analysis also revealed that stress and anxiety levels were not higher for these groups and that bikers in fact reported significantly lower stress levels during the lockdown.While this positive association between being a biker and mental health may be interpreted in different ways, the authors' qualitative data led to a nuanced understanding of the effect of gig work on mental well-being in this population group.