Inequalities in Remote Gig Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Floor Fiers, Eszter Hargittai


Remote gig work provided alternatives to in-person work during the COVID-19 pandemic, but digital inequality literature suggests that such opportunities are not equally available to all. Analyzing a survey of 1,551 U.S. adults in May 2020, we ask how sociodemographic factors and Internet skills relate to performing online work on a piece-rate basis before and during the pandemic. In our sample, the percentage of such workers increased by 16% after the outbreak of COVID-19. This inflow was more likely to be younger, Hispanic, and Asian, and less likely to be suburban residents than those who had already performed gig work previously. This suggests that these groups turned to gig platforms more than they did pre-pandemic, diversifying the pool of gig workers. Overall, however, younger, male, and digitally savvy respondents were more likely to perform remote gig work during the pandemic, suggesting that the gig economy mainly broadened the opportunities available to those from advantaged backgrounds. In line with digital skills literature, Internet savvy remains an obstacle to online labor market participation in the 21st century.


participation inequality, digital inequality, gig economy, remote work, online labor, Internet skills, digital literacy, COVID-19, pandemic

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