Older workers are being exploited in the gig economy

Older people who use the flexibility of self-employment or casual worker status can suffer exploitation in the gig economy.

A new case, highlighted by the Guardian newspaper, shows how two newspaper delivery workers (both over 60 years old) were paid below the minimum wage for years, by Midcounties Co-op, Britain’s biggest co-operative.

The independent co-operative, reportedly underpaid one of the workers more than £14,000 over four years and has paid more than £4,000 in missing wages and expenses to another, says the paper. New cases may also arise. For a start, Mid-counties Co-operative itself is apparently checking to see if 200 others have been paid below the minimum wage.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that nine out of 10 newly created jobs in the three months to the end of May were self-employed. The latest post-Brexit figures also show a shift towards part-time working, causing economists to point out that the labour market figures are not as “robust” as they first appear.

Research by the thinktank, the Social Market Foundation reveals that almost a half (49%) of UK self-employed are in low pay on an hourly basis, compared with just 22% of UK employees. When pay is looked at on a monthly basis, the proportion of low paid self-employed workers increases to 55% compared to 29% of employees.

Figures also show that the number of over 65s who are classed as self-employed doubled between 2008-20015. By 2020, the Social Market Foundation expects the number of people who are self-employed to rise further. It predicts that this will result in the number of self-employed workers paid below the new National Living Wage rate rising to 1.88 million.


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