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Distancing Bonus or Downscaling Loss? The Changing Livelihood of US Online Workers in Times of COVID-19

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  • Stephany, Fabian
  • Dunn, Michael
  • Sawyer, Steven
  • Lehdonvirta, Vili

Abstract

We draw on data from the Online Labour Index and interviews with freelancers in the United States securing work on online platforms, to illuminate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s global economic upheaval is shuttering shops and offices. Those able to do so are now working remotely from their homes. They join workers who have always been working remotely: freelancers who earn some or all of their income from projects secured via online labour platforms. Data allow us to sketch a first picture of how the initial month of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the livelihoods of online freelancers. The data shows online labour demand falling rapidly in early March 2020, but with an equally rapid recovery. We also find significant differences between countries and occupations. Data from interviews make clear jobs are increasingly scarce even as more people are creating profiles and seeking freelance work online.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephany, Fabian & Dunn, Michael & Sawyer, Steven & Lehdonvirta, Vili, 2020. "Distancing Bonus or Downscaling Loss? The Changing Livelihood of US Online Workers in Times of COVID-19," SocArXiv vmg34, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:vmg34
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/vmg34
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Warwick McKibbin & Roshen Fernando, 2021. "The Global Macroeconomic Impacts of COVID-19: Seven Scenarios," Asian Economic Papers, MIT Press, vol. 20(2), pages 1-30, Summer.
    3. R Maria del Rio-Chanona & Penny Mealy & Anton Pichler & François Lafond & J Doyne Farmer, 2020. "Supply and demand shocks in the COVID-19 pandemic: an industry and occupation perspective," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(Supplemen), pages 94-137.
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    Cited by:

    1. Martindale, Nicholas & Lehdonvirta, Vili, 2021. "Can labour market digitalization increase social mobility? Evidence from a European survey of online platform workers," SocArXiv 54aqh, Center for Open Science.
    2. Malo, Miguel, 2020. "Una reflexión sobre las primeras respuestas de política al impacto del Covid-19 sobre el empleo [A reflection on the first mitigating policies of the impact of Covid-19 on employment]," MPRA Paper 104390, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Tan, Zhi Ming & Aggarwal, Nikita & Cowls, Josh & Morley, Jessica & Taddeo, Mariarosaria & Floridi, Luciano, 2021. "The ethical debate about the gig economy: A review and critical analysis," Technology in Society, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    4. Uma Rani & Rishabh Kumar Dhir, 2020. "Platform Work and the COVID-19 Pandemic," The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, Springer;The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), vol. 63(1), pages 163-171, October.
    5. Christopher T. Stanton & Catherine Thomas, 2020. "The Gig Economy Beyond Local Services and Transportation," CESifo Forum, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 21(03), pages 21-26, September.

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