Gig Workers During the COVID-19 Crisis in France: Financial Precarity and Mental Well-Being

32 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2020

See all articles by Bénédicte Apouey

Bénédicte Apouey

CNRS; Paris School of Economics (PSE)

Alexandra Roulet


Isabelle Solal

ESSEC Business School

Mark Stabile

INSEAD; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2020


We set out to explore how precarious workers, particularly those employed in the gig economy, balance financial uncertainty, health risks, and mental well-being. We surveyed and interviewed precarious workers in France during the COVID-19 crisis, in March and April 2020. We oversampled gig economy workers, in particular in driving and food delivery occupations (hereafter drivers and bikers), residing in metropolitan areas. These workers cannot rely on stable incomes and are excluded from the labor protections offered to employees, features which have been exacerbated by the crisis. We analyzed outcomes for precarious workers during the mandatory lockdown in France as an extreme case to better understand how financial precarity relates to health risks and mental well-being. Our analysis revealed that three weeks into the lockdown, 56% of our overall sample had stopped working and respondents had experienced a 28% income drop on average. Gig economy drivers reported a significant 20 percentage point larger income decrease than other workers in our sample. Bikers were significantly more likely to have continued working outside the home during the lockdown. Yet our quantitative analysis also revealed that stress and anxiety levels were not higher for these groups, and that bikers in fact reported significantly lower stress levels during the lockdown. While this positive association between being a biker and mental health may be interpreted in different ways, our qualitative data led to a nuanced understanding of the effect of gig work on mental well-being in this population group.

Keywords: Gig Economy, Financial Precarity, Health and Well-Being, COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Apouey, Bénédicte and Roulet, Alexandra and Solal, Isabelle and Stabile, Mark, Gig Workers During the COVID-19 Crisis in France: Financial Precarity and Mental Well-Being (September 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Bénédicte Apouey

CNRS ( email )


Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014

Alexandra Roulet

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

Isabelle Solal

ESSEC Business School ( email )

1 Avenue Bernard Hirsch
Cergy, 50105

Mark Stabile (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
F-77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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