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Getting Gig-gy With It: The Emergence of the Digital Gig Economy and Protecting the Filipino Gig Workforce


The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines guarantees the protection of the Filipino labourer. Workers are guaranteed the following rights: the right to conduct collective bargaining or negotiation with management; to engage in peaceful concerted activities, which includes joining strikes in accordance to law; to enjoy the security of tenure, and the right to work under humane conditions. (Philippine Constitution, 1987)

However, technology opens new avenues in the ways one can gain employment. The World Bank has discussed how technology is blurring the boundaries of the firm, which is evident in the rise of platform marketplaces. Using digital technologies, entrepreneurs are now creating global, platform-based businesses that are different from the traditional production process. As well, more and more people are finding work through these platform-based marketplaces (World Bank, 2019).

There already has been previous research on this subject, which includes the job quality of work in the gig economy (Wood, 2018), the characteristics of those who are in the gig economy (Lepanjuuri, 2018); the applicability of applying existing employment regulations (Stewart and Sandford, 2017), and the future of employment and labour law protections where the gig economy is concerned (Lobel, 2016).

This work aims to answer the following questions:

What is the gig economy and how does it work?

Is there an employer-employee relationship in the gig economy?

How can the workers be protected?

Should gig work be regulated?

Should gig workers have the right to representation, or can they form or join unions?

Also included in this research are the benefits and disadvantages of the gig economy, as well as the “myth of flexibility” in the gig economy.

What is the gig economy and how does it work?

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics defines a gig as a “single project or task for which a worker is hired, often through a digital marketplace, to work on demand.” (Torpey and Hogan, 2016)

Other research has analysed different terminologies for the gig economy. Richard Heeks, in his research, categorises gig work as “online labour”, which springs from a work and labour focus. On the client’s end, Heeks calls it “online outsourcing”. The gig economy, according to Heeks, is the “overall domain” (Heeks, 2019)

Online labour, according to Schmidt, is divided into two types: crowd work, where the tasks are not given to a specific individual and are further subdivided into microwork, which are tiny units of piecemeal tasks. Online freelancing, however, is a more substantial task; it is given to a specific individual. Examples of online freelancing include but are not limited to translation, web development, sales, administrative support, sales, and marketing (Schmidt, 2017)

(Thompson, 2018) defines gigs as “one-time jobs that can be acquired by workers through a particular website or phone-based application, which allows them to find work or bid on work.”

A glance at the gig economy statistics

A survey has also been conducted for this work has shown interesting results with respect to educational background. 95.2% of the respondents have completed a bachelor’s degree. 4.71% are still in senior high.

Who are the gig workers, and what jobs do these gig workers do?

(Farrell, 2018) classified people who do gig work. With respect to age, people who engage in gig, or non-traditional work are likely to be younger than traditional workers. Freelancers tend to be older, while online platform workers tend to be younger, Farrell adds.

In a study performed by Robles and McGee (2016), it has been reported that 32% of their study participants sell used or new goods online; 26% do offline paid work such as housecleaning, and other house maintenance work; 16% sell from offline locations such as kiosks or flea market stalls.

The results from the survey conducted for this research show that 71% have jobs found through websites or gig platforms, which include, but are not limited to content creation, social media management, graphic design, and web development, among others. 14.3% are engaged in courier services such as Mr. Speedy, Lalamove, and other similar services. Another 14.3% of the respondents report that they are engaged in food delivery services.

(Thompson, 2018) who earlier defined gigs as one-time jobs that can be acquired through a website or phone-based application, elaborates the process of job-finding. A job seeker signs up for a job through a phone-based application. Once the work is completed, the employing client rates the work performance. This contributes to the worker’s overall rating, which in turn, impacts their potential line; the procedure, reports Thompson, encourages freelancers to work below market rate–and even for free–in order to have more gigs or ratings on one’s professional profile.

With respect to working hours, the survey results for this research shows that they vary from one job to another. 28.5% of the respondents work eight hours per working day; 23.8% of the respondents work daily, but did not disclose how many hours were spent working; one respondent shares that she has a flexible schedule; she is at liberty to control the start and end of her workday, for as long as she completes 40 hours on one of her jobs, and 10 on the other.

Is there an employer-employee relationship in the gig economy? What are the issues or problems that may arise from it?

(Peetz, 2019) in his work, “The Realities and Futures of Work” discussed the concept of “Not There” employment. This, elaborates Peetz, is described more as a means of reducing the risk and cost to an enterprise, and also a way for enterprises or employers to avoid accountability for misbehaviour by their affiliates by denying responsibility–using the tagline, “We’re not there!”

Peetz describes the term as ironic–workers are, of course, are experiencing the “capitalist employment relationship”, and that the enterprise is very much there, but it is also to say that they are not there. In addition, Peetz reports that this kind of employment facilitates a higher rate of non-compliance with labour laws; and it is alarming to note that many corporations are seeking to make greater use of flexible labour, and engage in “not there” employment–mainly to minimise costs as well as to avoid responsibility for the labour costs they will incur, to say nothing of possible breaches of the law.

The biggest challenge to the employment relationship is in the gig economy itself, Peetz sums up. The reason for the challenge is that the virtual platforms provide a new, cheap way of control that may replace the need for employment. The availability of electronic control and surveillance has made this possible, along with rating systems that minimise the cost of monitoring quality. Another reason, according to Peetz, is that the platform reduces the need for intermediate, peripheral capital to organise labour on behalf of core capital.

Peetz adds that while the gig economy will grow, there are still limits to the use of cost-cutting and platform control, and it will not overtake the employment relationship.

The Uber v. Aslam case

In the United Kingdom, Uber lost its final appeal against its drivers’ employment status. Yaseem Aslam and James Farrar, both licensed to drive private vehicles in London claimed that they should be paid minimum wage under the UK’s National Minimum Wage Act of 1998 and receive paid annual leave under the Working Time Regulations of 1998. Uber, however, claimed that its drivers are self-employed independent contractors, and are referred to as “partners”, also stating that they do not owe both Farrar and Aslam worker or employee obligations. Aslam and Farrar rebutted Uber’s claim, pointing it out to be “fiction”, and was described as “ridiculous” at worst. Using the UK’s Employment Rights Act of 1996 as well as the National Minimum Wage Act of 1998, they were able to support their claim that they were workers–although they did not specify which type (Uber BV v. Aslam, 2021).

Section 230 of the Employment Rights Act enumerates the definitions of “worker” and “employee”:

(1)In this Act “employee” means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under) a contract of employment.
(2)In this Act “contract of employment” means a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied, and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing.
(3)In this Act “worker” (except in the phrases “shop worker” and “betting worker”) means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under)—
(a)a contract of employment, or
(b)any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual;
and any reference to a worker’s contract shall be construed accordingly. (Employment Rights Act, 1996)

Section 54 of  the National Minimum Wage Act of 1998 defines workers and employees by the following:

(1)In this Act “employee” means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under) a contract of employment.
(2)In this Act “contract of employment” means a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied, and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing.
(3)In this Act “worker” (except in the phrases “agency worker” and “home worker”) means an individual who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, worked under)—
(a)a contract of employment; or
(b)any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual; (National Minimum Wage Act, 1998)


The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled in favour of Aslam and Farrar, and held that the Employment Tribunal was correct. Uber drivers were “workers” who are entitled to at least the minimum wage and paid holidays, calculated from the time they logged into the app. The Supreme Court did not, however, directly say that both Aslam and Farrar are considered employees, but they noted that Uber strongly controls the nature of the drivers’ work. (Uber BV v. Aslam, 2021)


What the Aslam case would mean to the gig economy

Lawyers have given their opinion about the ruling of the case, with one lawyer saying that the ruling in Aslam v. Uber BV will open floodgates, and organisations in the gig economy should expect a “torrent of claims” from individuals who will exercise their rights as workers or employees. Another lawyer has expressed her opinion that the ruling in the case has made it clear that gig employers are not open to pick and choose its rules. Gig employers should follow the law–if the law mandates that the concerned individuals should be paid the national minimum wage, then there is no contract that can escape that mandate. (Personnel Today, 2021)

Moreover, the degree of control that Uber had over its drivers was the determining factor–with the UK Supreme Court was quoted as saying, “the greater the extent of such control, the stronger the case for classifying the individual as a ‘worker’ who is employed under a ‘worker’s contract’. Therefore, if you intend to engage self-employed staff, it is imperative that you grant them as much control as possible over the way in which they work.” (Denny, 2021)

While the ruling directly affects Uber drivers, the Supreme Court’s ruling has huge implications for the gig economy–or anyone working in the gig economy, as it has clarified the approach the courts will take when deciding if someone is a worker. (Dannreuther and Sokhi, 2021)

Benefits  of the Gig Economy 

(Mantymaki, et al., 2019) provided a lengthy list of benefits that the gig economy brings. Gig workers were in control of their work, or rather, their self-employed status. Doing gig work is an alternative to unemployment, working in digital platforms provides many people means of employment for many people who face challenges finding work, or working a normal 9-5 schedule. Work-life balance was also listed as a benefit of gig work, as well as the ability to work very few hours extensively.  In the case of the transport side of the gig economy, platforms offer generous incentives to new drivers (Mantymaki et al, 2019).

In the survey conducted for this research, flexibility was the main benefit of their work; flexibility, in this context, would mean flexibility in work schedules. One of the respondents has been given leeway as how to much time she would work per day, provided that the 40-hour workweek requirement is being met. Another respondent has disclosed that he was given the freedom to do his work the way he sees fit, and does not encounter any interference from his client-employer.

Another benefit of gig work was additional income which would help them pay their bills and augment their savings, which made up 25.2% of the respondents’ answers.

For companies, it would mean a larger pool of talent. Companies are able to attract talent from across the world (Mia and Harabadas, 2020). The world is now witnessing the growth of a hyperconnected global market, where any task conceivable can now be outsourced by digital platforms. This is described by (Graham and Anwar, 2019), as a “planetary labour market”.

Disadvantages of the Gig Economy and the Flexibility Myth 

There is, however, another side to the gig economy. While it promises flexibility and work-life balance, there are people who work four days a week with twelve-hour shifts. There are also people who are free from reporting to a single employer, yet the gig economy tethers them to work and work and work–they are constantly required to hustle, constantly on call to make money (Ravenelle, 2019). Other problems of gig work include delayed pay, lack of work-life balance,  lack of flexibility, and uncertainty (Peetz, 2019).

(Ravenelle, 2019) further discusses the other side of the gig economy: gig or sharing economy workers generally receive little or no advance notice of major workplace changes, and more often than not,  they have no unemployment safety net to fall back on.

In the Philippines, 92% of Filipino freelancers share that job security is a key concern for their careers. They find it difficult to plan for the future because they constantly shift from one contract to another. Freelance workers also need to work for multiple clients to maintain a steady stream of income which allows them to cushion the unpredictability of work, in addition to diversifying their income streams (Mia and Harabadas, 2020).

In addition to the earlier discussion on working hours, while it is acknowledged that the ability to work from home is seen as a major benefit of gig work along with the ability to juggle family care and alternate paid work (Wood et al, 2019), it should also be noted that this benefit meets another problem. Apart from being unable to afford alternative places of work, two more downsides to this autonomy, Wood adds, are loneliness and isolation. Working long hours, Wood elaborates, also meant unsocial working hours, especially if one’s client-employers are located in other parts of the world such as the United Kingdom, USA, or Australia. Late-night working became prevalent in order to meet deadlines (Wood, 2019).

Protecting the Filipino Gig Worker: Should Gig Work be Regulated? Should Gig Workers have the right to representation? 

In the same survey conducted for this research, it is reported that 52% of the respondents feel that the gig economy should be regulated. According to them, there should be regulations about hours of work, as well as the provision of a minimum labour standard.

14% of the respondents do not feel the need for regulation; gig workers should have the freedom to sell and rate their service and position their personal brand, as there is a level of expertise and experience. Should there be rules, these rules should be negotiated with the client in agreement, as well as the whole gig community.

With regard to representation, 61% answered in favour of representation. One respondent feels that gig workers should be represented as rules for gig workers need a voice, due to the fact that rules for gig workers are not standard or set in stone. They also want to have a voice, in order to fight for what is humane. Without representation, it might be possible for platforms or client-employers to find a gap in the current policies that they might abuse, resulting in grueling conditions of work for gig workers. Other respondents, while expressing their need for representation, also had reservations. Should gig workers be allowed representation, to whom shall they collectively bargain? How can that question be settled?

19% of the respondents felt that there was no need for representation, simply because gig work is short-term employment.

The Labour Code of the Philippines, under Article 253, provides the gig workers (who are classed as “ambulant, intermittent and itinerant workers and self-employed people) the right to join or form labour unions for their mutual aid and protectionbut not for purposes of collective bargaining (Poquiz, 2018).


The gig economy has various definitions but is commonly defined as work where people use apps to sell their labour. With respect to the acquisition of work (and more work), the manner of acquiring work is done through logging in to a website or on a phone-based application, and when work is done, the client-employer rates the work.

Working hours vary from one worker to another, and from one gig work to another. One may work eight hours a day, or for only a few hours for twice or thrice a week. It also has its benefits and disadvantages: it can allow workers to work at the comfort of their own home, but long working hours can lead to loneliness and isolation. There is also no employer-employee relationship between the gig worker and the client-employer, and their work contracts are usually short-term.

Also discussed in this research was the need or call for regulation. Gig workers are perpetually at the risk of exploitation, as they do too much work for little pay. On the other hand, where representation is concerned, Article 253 of the Labour Code of the Philippines provides that gig workers are allowed to form or join organisations for their “mutual benefit and protection.” Gig workers are classified as “intermittent, ambulant, or itinerant workers” as they do not report to a single employer. However, gig workers cannot bargain collectively.

A number of limitations were recognised or taken note of while carrying out the research for this term paper. There has been difficulty in finding respondents for the survey–respondents had concerns over the confidentiality of the data they would provide, so they ended up leaving out some fields blank, especially where salary, income, and contact details.  Also, related literature for this topic is more centered on Europe and America. The same cannot be said for Asia and Africa as literature for this research topic is limited.


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