Rise and Grind

Microwork is a form of work on digital platforms in which short tasks are assigned to workers, who are paid piece wages for completing them. This can consist of coding data to teach algorithms, short translation tasks, surveys, tagging content and identifying images. It has provided new opportunities for workers to participate in the labour market but has been found to exacerbate labour market inequalities. Workers on these platforms are not classified as employees under labour law and are often paid below minimum wage for their work.

Reflecting on this new form of work and on our research findings, we outline a range of policies which could help improve working conditions for microworkers within the UK. In addition to the set of Universal Workers’ Rights we have developed in earlier research, we propose policies specifically for the microwork sector: including ‘finders fees’ and payment for pre-task tests to ensure that all the time microworkers actually spend working is remunerated, as well as ratings systems for contractors and worker messaging systems so that microworkers are better placed to organise for improved working conditions.

Key findings:

– 95% of UK microworkers earn below minimum wage for this work.

– Almost 2 in 3 microworkers earn less than £4 an hour.

– 1 in 5 microworkers has no other paid work.

– More than half receive no pension from any of their work.

– Microwork has increased because of Covid, with 36% of respondents reporting starting microwork during the

– Almost 30% of microworkers spent at least 30 minutes on unpaid activities for every hour of paid work on the

– The report recommends that microworkers should be offered ‘finders fees’ and payment for pre-task tests so
that all time ‘on the job’ is financially remunerated.

– Ratings systems should be available for contractors, not only workers, so that bad employers within the system can be easily spotted.

– New messaging systems for workers should be legally mandated for each microwork site so that communication
over key issues at work can be improved.

– Microworkers should be given the right to collective bargaining, to sit alongside a ‘Fair Microwork Charter’,
which would set out best practice for microwork employers.

Click the image below to read the full report.