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Covid-19 risk high for gig economy workers – report

The report said that some gig workers, such as ride share services, face heightened risk of exposure to Covid-19. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

The report said that some gig workers, such as ride share services, face heightened risk of exposure to Covid-19. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 13, 2021

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Cape Town - The gig economy, which employs an estimated 30 000 workers in location-based platform work such as taxi driving, delivery and cleaning, has been reported to be “often unsafe and insecure” with regards to workplace Covid-19 infections.

The latest Fairwork SA 2021 ratings report said regardless of the sector in which gig workers operate, all workers are more vulnerable to exposure to Covid-19 due to their inability to work from home.

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The report, which released a set of scores evaluating gig economy platforms such as Uber, SweepSouth, and Mr D against a set of fair work standards, said the sustained impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to present challenges to South Africa’s economy.

“Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic has been felt disproportionately by those who work outside of formal employment, particularly the rising number of workers who rely on gig platforms for income.

“Furthermore, the lack of sick pay for many workers means that if they need to self-isolate, they face severe financial insecurity. Without UIF or sick pay, gig workers have no safety net,” said the report.

The report said that some gig workers, such as ride share services, face heightened risk of exposure to Covid-19 due to the nature of their work which involves high levels of contact with strangers.

“There have been incidences in the past of people with Covid-19 symptoms using Uber and other ride-sharing services to get to hospitals instead of calling ambulances.”

The report also said that gig workers don’t have unemployment benefits including sick pay, and many of them face substantial financial uncertainty, which leads many to work even when facing Covid-19 symptoms.

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The report emerged as the Compensation Fund released its report on workplace Covid-19 compliance levels criticising public and private sector workplaces for “woeful compliance levels”.

Department of Employment and Labour Inspector-General Aggy Moiloa said: “In general, we found 50% compliance in the private sector. This is a breakdown of 149 compliant against 151 non-compliant workplaces.

“The public sector did not cover itself in glory at all with compliance as low as 25%. Anything below 80% should be a concern.”

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Moiloa said the fund conducted inspections between July 5 and 7 targeting “high-risk areas and hot spots” in KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape during this adjusted alert level 4 lockdown.

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Cape Argus

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