Most gig economy workers “feel threatened by review sites”

Gig economy workers are grappling with another threat to their wages: the double-edged sword of online reviews, according to research.

Academics have shown how tech companies are compounding the problem, leaving scores of workers in fear of their future income.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford, analyzed the reputation systems of some of the largest gig economy platforms, such as Upwork and Fiverr, which use customer feedback to produce ratings.

It found that algorithms, the processes used to rank workers based on performance metrics, lack transparency and are highly volatile, leaving workers vulnerable to capricious and malicious customers.

The findings revealed that seven freelancers in 10 gig economy working remotely from around the world were concerned that clients would provide unfair feedback and negatively impact their future earnings.

The lead author, Dr. Alex Wood, a sociologist at Bristol Business School, said: “It was shocking how workers expressed continued concern about the potential consequences of receiving a single negative rating from an unfair or malicious client, and how that could leave them unable to continue earn a living”.

He said the situation is creating a growing trend of “reputational insecurity” in the workforce, where self-employed contract workers are experiencing greater instability and concern about future access to work.

The fleeting nature of the reviews also means that some workers have resorted to unpaid extra hours or even doing entire jobs for free in a desperate attempt to avoid negative ratings, the study found.

Dr Wood said, “We found that some workers continued to do free reviews for customers to ensure their satisfaction and favorable feedback.

“Others canceled the contract and provided their work for free if they felt the client was dissatisfied and could leave a detrimental rating.”

The study found that companies operated without checks and balances to verify ratings and also lacked effective processes for seeking redress and corrections.

Co-author of the study, Professor Vili Lehdonvirta, of the University of Oxford, added: ‘This study is important as technology companies continue to rewire the social fabric of our lives and platforms’ rating and reputation systems are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. beyond the gig economy.

“Controlling these reputational insecurity processes will not only be an important political effort to improve concert work, but also the economy of the broader platform.”

Academics conducted qualitative interviews in large cities, including London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Manila.

They also analyzed surveys of nearly 900 gig economy workers from the UK and Europe.

– The study, Platforms Disrupting Reputation: Insecurity and Recognition Struggles in the Remote Gig Economy, is published in the journal Sociology.

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