The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Behavior of Online Gig Workers
55 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2020 Last revised: 23 Mar 2022
Date Written: 3 22, 2022
Using labor supply data from a large online education platform with more than 100,000 gig workers, we investigate how online gig workers change their behavior after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and what drives the changes. Online gig workers sharply increased their labor supply on the platform by 23\% from the announcement of national emergency to the end of April (Stage 1); the increase became smaller in May and June (Stage 2), and disappeared in July and August (Stage 3). Year-to-year difference-in-difference (DiD) analyses show that these findings are robust after controlling for seasonality and worker heterogeneity. We show that the increase in gig workers' labor supply is not driven by a higher demand or excessive entry of new workers during the pandemic. A series of mediation analyses indicate that unemployment and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) rather than the risk of contracting COVID-19 can better explain why online gig workers increase their labor supply. The impact of unemployment is smaller than that of NPI policies, indicating that the increase in gig workers' labor supply is more driven by temporary changes in working arrangements due to the policies rather than relatively long-term changes in employment situations. We also examine how online gig workers change their quality of work, and how their earning potential on the platform relates to their changes in behavior during the pandemic. Our findings provide insights for the management of online gig workers during major disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keywords: Gig Economy, Platform Operations, Worker Behavior, COVID-19 Pandemic
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