The true cost of the gig economy: Ciné-ONU Vienna screening of “The Gig Is Up”

Millions of people around the globe are engaged in the platform economy, looking for job opportunities online. "The Gig Is Up”, directed by Shannon Walsh in 2021, shines a light on numerous stories of gig workers and the benefits and threats that people in this shadow workforce face. 

VIENNA, 18 September 2023 - Many people came to see "The Gig Is Up" at Top Kino, a film that delves into the lives of workers in fields like food delivery, Uber driving, and other platforms that offer online services.

Several experts discussed the topics raised in the film afterwards: Christian Berger, Economic Policy Expert at the Chamber of Labour (AK) Wien, Martin Gruber-Risak, Associate Professor in the Department of Labour Law and Law of Social Security at the University of Vienna, Lynn Neubert, Manager of Human Rights, Labour and Gender Equality at Global Compact Network Austria and Adele Siegl, former Chairwoman at the Works Council at Mjam/Foodora GmbH, moderated by Martin Nesirky, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Vienna. 


More flexibility and potentially higher earnings are some of the appealing benefits of self-employment that convince an increasing number of people from various sectors to leave their traditional office jobs. Christian Berger said that the number of official registrations of platform workers in Europe is unreliable as well as significantly underestimated. In Austria, for instance, some jobs as care workers are also being promoted on such platforms. Additionally, the film shows that undocumented immigrants, minors, and marginalized individuals who lack alternative means of support make up a large group in the gig economy.

However, flexibility comes at a cost. For platform companies to gain dominance in the market, non-contract workers must pay the price. Martin Gruber-Risak discussed how the ostensibly promising "flexibility" can undermine real mobility as platform workers are frequently compelled to take on more tasks to compensate for the lack of insurance and other benefits typically associated with traditional office jobs.

An audience member asked why university students or middle-class people are increasingly becoming gig workers. Neubert said: "Companies like to classify workers as independent contractors and this is not just a phenomenon that stays in the gig economy it is just a huge problem in culture and television in Austria…. It’s comfortable for companies and at first also for the non-employees." Even professionals in higher fields, such as architects and graphic designers, are caught in this global competition.

The panel also discussed whether this business model can endure as an increasing number of platform workers advocate for their rights. 

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Having the right to work and the right to just as well as favourable conditions of work are also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23), which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Decent work and economic growth are equally reflected in Goal eight of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The screening was organized by UNIS Vienna in cooperation with the Global Compact Network Austria to coincide with the SDG summit taking place on 18 and 19 September during the General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York. World leaders gathered at the summit to accelerate actions leading up to 2030, the deadline set by all UN Member States to achieve the goals.