The Aussie workers on less than minimum wage


You see them take over the streets each evening as households get hungry, but many of them are struggling to put food on the table for themselves.

Australia's largest gig economy survey by the McKell Institute has found that 45% of workers in the industry earn less than minimum wage, with food delivery workers the worse off with 57% reporting being paid less than minimum wage.

The minimum wage in Australia is $21.38 per hour or $812.60 per week and while there is no official data on the number of gig workers, estimates range from 200,000 to 250,000.

uber eats gig economy workers are underpaid

This means that if the survey's findings are reflected across the entire industry, then roughly 112,000 Australian workers could be earning less than minimum wage, including over half of all food delivery workers.

Increasing the hours spent working does little to help, with 66% of those working over 40 hours reported to be on less than minimum wage.

Chief executive of the McKell Institute Michael Buckland says the survey shows the pressure gig workers were under.

"This survey shows that tens of thousands of people in Australia are effectively experiencing wage theft and have no rights to sick leave, superannuation, or workers' compensation," he says.

The report found 81% of respondents rely on the money they earn from ridesharing or deliveries to pay bills and survive, with 41% working overtime despite no overtime rates.

There is a growing call from the industry for better government regulation of the sector with 95% of workers wanting support says Buckland.

"These results make it clear that federal parliament must act immediately to reform the rules around gig work," says Buckland.

Their calls have been heard by the Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine who says the reported busted the myths about the gig economy.

"Although many food delivery, parcel delivery, and rideshare drivers are drawn to this work on the promise of flexible hours, this is unobtainable without the existence of fair, safe and sustainable standards."

"These findings reveal that the future of gig work is unsustainable for all involved unless enforceable standards for fair pay, decent conditions and job security are put in place," he says.

The research comes a week after Uber launched its own campaign against proposed legal changes that would let the Fair Work Commission set minimum pay and conditions for gig workers.

The Labor government told executives of the gig economy to expect legislation in the first half of 2022 that would expand the powers of the Fair Work Commission.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said at the time that "we want the technology of gig work, but 21st-century technology shouldn't come with 19th-century working conditions".

Kaine agrees saying it was now the time to help support workers that have quickly become an essential service for many Australians.

"Now it's up to parliament to pass legislation so that the Fair Work Commission can get on with creating a safety net for transport gig work so it can become truly flexible as well as fair," he says.

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Eliot Hastie was a senior journalist at Money magazine in early 2023. He was previously a producer and presenter at ausbiz where he covered startups, small caps, cryptocurrency and every other investible opportunity for Australians. Eliot has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Journalism from the University of Westminster. He tweets at @Hastie93.