We’re all slaves now, as gig economy booms

By Leith van Onselen

Robert Gottliebsen has hailed the gig economy as enabling many Australians from coping with the rising cost of living and avoiding going into mortgage arrears. Gotti has also cautioned against greater regulation of the gig economy:

Australians have embraced the so-called gig economy with great enthusiasm and an incredible survey commissioned by the Victorian Labor government shows that more than 13 per cent of those surveyed were engaged in it.

More than half those people—- seven per cent— were adding income from their gig tasks to their full-time job. It is this supplemental income that is helping struggling mortgage holders hang on to their houses and manage cost of living pressures…

The survey showed most people were earning $32 an hour and that income is playing a vital role in shielding our community from the worst effects of the credit squeeze…

The below chart from The AFR tells the story, with the number of people holding secondary jobs surging:

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that as at March 2019, around 979,583 people had secondary jobs. This is up from 853,248 in March 2017, 852,311 in March 2015, and 782,756 in March 2013. That’s an increase of 25.1 per cent since 2013, since when the overall population has grown about 8.2 per cent.

Only a fortnight ago, academics warned that Australia’s gig economy is dominated by migrants and is pushing down wages:

Wages and working conditions could take a hit if ‘gig economy’ jobs such as takeaway delivery continue to expand, researchers of a new study have warned.

In 2017 the researchers spoke to 58 Uber Eats and Deliveroo workers in Melbourne and Perth… 47 of the 58 riders interviewed said they were in Australia on student or working visas…

Study co-author Tom Barratt from Perth’s Edith Cowan University said the major issue was workers were engaged as independent contractors and could be paid less than minimum wage without breaking employment laws… “if more and more jobs enter the gigosphere, this can put downward pressure on the wages and conditions of workers in non-gig jobs,” he said…

The Department of Home Affairs’ temporary visa statistics shows that the number of temporary visas on issue as at March 2019 ballooned past 2.3 million, up 92,400 over the year:

And this increase has been driven by international students, whose numbers have surged by 268,000 since 2012:

The boom in international students and the gig economy goes hand in hand, as does systemic exploitation and erosion of Australian wages.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.


  1. How does that c0ck look people in the eye. His shilling is so brazen it’s a wonder he still has a job

  2. And the fake Greens hate Aussies so much that they will not ban foreigners from driving trucks here.

    A hailstorm hit Sydney? Oh no! Skills shortage of panel beaters! Import more panel beaters and let them stay permanently!

    • @gavin serious question…who provides them with the money to buy the car and secondly how do they pay for the car and the cost of their fake Higher Education/VET course at the same time??

      • In the states, Uber apparently makes the bulk of its income from car loans to drivers l don’t know if it’s the same here, but finance is the profit part of Uber.

    • Pooling of money from their families back home.

      Money made next to go out of the country to pay back the debt.

      Hence the high rate of remittances from Australia to India.

      • @Chase this is plausible, however Higher Ed courses start from $30k upwards and a car greater than 5 years old would set them back at least $15k, there is no way their family can afford this, not even a domestic student couldn’t afford this without having to study part-time and overseas students can only arrive here to study a full time course.

    • Yeah, who commissioned and paid for the survey / report? I’m sure if they’d paid more they could have gotten the hourly rate up to $40.

  3. arthritic kneeMEMBER

    Surely these jobs are all in highly discretionary sectors. When things get tight the first things to go will be the 5 x takeaways home delivered a week and Uber rides home from the pub. What happens then?

    • exactly, it’s a false economy, how many public servants, architects, urban planners, academics and anyone else associated with the FIRE and Education sectors do we need to employ to make this sustainable??

  4. It ends at next recession when the number of Uber drivers, etc increases many fold. All those who considered these jobs a reliable source of income will have their day of reckoning.

  5. Many Aussies, particularly young ones, are “choosing” gig work as much as they are “choosing” units over homes for “the lifestyle”…

    It’s too risky and too hard, and they need that asset called Flexibility to avoid taking on ridiculous levels of debt, or getting under-trained and beaten down by their employers.


  6. I was once waiting for “Domingo” to bring my order and instead an incredibly HOT chick turned up to deliver it. She’s never been back though. Uber Eats should think about charging extra for the hotties.

  7. “The boom in international students and the gig economy goes hand in hand” is incorrect. The gig economy has always been here: think taxis, freelancers, cleaners that used to put their card in your letterbox. The difference now is that they are controlled by a foreign company that has undercut the competition and is taking a cut meaning that the income for the contractor is pretty crap.

    • >“The boom in international students and the gig economy goes hand in hand” is incorrect

      last time I checked there wasn’t much “cultural diversity” on display by your Uber drivers, taxi drivers, tell them you’re form the Dept of Immigration and watch their reaction.

      • Crap wages and being a contractor (not on payroll) with foreign companies. Why would you do it unless you were desperate for the money or residency.

        My point is that the gig economy has always existed, it is just now in the control of a few multinational companies rather than thousands of sole traders in the past.

  8. “Australians have embraced the so-called gig economy with absolute fvcking desperation”

    Fixed that for him.

  9. Does being a sugar baby classify as second job? Recent 60 minutes episode on this was alarming.

  10. stephenMEMBER

    If there was an equivalent to Aus Day and Queens Bday honours, but for scum who have undermined the people of Australia, this cretin would be heavily decorated

  11. In any other time, the government would not tolerate such a free-for-all that is the gig economy; where work rights and laws are abused.

    But given we need to employ the hoardes of newly minted Australians and foreign students, the government is supporting the proliferation of such dodgy businesses, rather than regulating and or shutting them down.

  12. for a while western neoliberal capitalism was living sucking up blood from the cheap labour in the East and rising debt of a local population. Now with both blood sources drying up they have to start sucking blood of the cheap local labour and rising credit elsewhere.
    What it’s going to do after?

  13. BakuninMEMBER

    The gig economy is a racket. It has only exploded over the last 5 years because businesses aren’t hiring. Technology also helps facilitate piecemeal work, but it’s mostly low value service work.

    Another racket is the latest business fad which says that anyone can start their own online business: aka the laptop lifestyle. It’s just a big Ponzi scheme.

  14. Jumping jack flash

    Dont know about anyone else, but if we’re all a take-out delivery gig away from being squashed under a mountain of debt then that just screams stability doesn’t it?

    I dont know what the point of this article was: to celebrate the resilience of the common Australian debt slave, or expose their fragility…