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Inside look into the Australian digital workforce

 7.1% of the Australian workforce works on digital platforms. But more than 45% of these gig economy workers have no work-related insurance. upcover reports on the Victorian government’s ‘Digital Platform Work’ inquiry and how it impacts the food delivery workers.

Here’s what we answer:

New research finds that almost 14% of the entire Australian workforce undertook some form of digital platform work in the past 12 months (pre-COVID data). This report is a result of the landmark Victorian inquiry into the gig economy and was collected in late 2018, at the time counted as the largest-ever study conducted regarding gig workers. From then, the gig economy has exploded.

In the USA, gig workers are expected to grow to become 30-40% of their total workforce. Australia being no exception to growth in on-demand or contract based work, also has thousands of people engaged in digital platforms- currently 1 in 10 workers

Macro trends include an aging population opting to delay retirement in preference for freelance work, and millenials (Generations Y and Z) entering the workforce opting for a more flexible approach across a number of industries and professions. More so, with COVID-19, Australia has suffered massive job losses, now at more than 700,000 which has led many to turn to gig work. This tells us the growth in the gig economy is just the beginning.


Workers of Freelancer, Airtasker, Deliveroo, Menulog


What are digital platforms and why are they important to delivery workers?


Digital platforms connect workers with individuals or businesses looking to give or get food to their doors. This is called an on-demand service. The mobile apps used to work include UberEats, Deliveroo, etc. are called digital platforms. In reality, they are large global companies with complicated corporate structures.

Those that work through a digital platform sign a legal contract with them by agreeing to their terms and conditions. Interestingly, many of these digital platforms call themselves as a marketing platform that only connects a worker to a prospective customer. This is incredibly important, as it changes the relationship between the on-demand worker to one of an independent contractor, and not an employee.


Digital Platform Work

Source: Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce

For example, UberEats Australia (Portier Pacific) in its insurance clause [section 8] of service agreement [clause 8.3] writes:

You agree that you are not an employee, independent contractor, a worker or a deemed worker of Uber and/or Portier Pacific for the purposes of Australian workers compensation laws and therefore acknowledge that Uber and/or Portier Pacific does not, and is not required to, maintain or provide you with workers’ compensation insurance or maintain other occupational accident injury insurance on your behalf.

In layman terms, riders are provided with no insurance as they are not seen as employees.

What do we know about food delivery riders as digital platform workers in Australia?


The food delivery platforms such as UberEats, Deliveroo, DoorDash, and EASI capture almost one fifth of the entire digital platform work. As a result, food delivery work and transport (19%) are the most common jobs undertaken by digital platform workers- 1 in 5 gig workers are food delivery riders. It comes as no surprise, but delivery riders are most active in New South Wales (7.9%), closely followed by Victoria (7.4%), concentrated in the urban hotspots of Sydney and Melbourne. Interestingly, there are tens of thousands of delivery riders registered with these platforms.

How do food delivery platforms affect delivery riders?



Majority of the delivery riders also work on more than one digital platform. It is essential to have access to information on all platform features however it is commonplace for riders to be notified of algorithm changes without much notice, impacting their ability to earn.

Moreover, there is a distinct lack of clarity and visibility on these digital platforms that affect riders if they are faced with a difficulty- 30% of the workers do not know if their platform has a dispute resolution process.

Do food delivery platforms have any impact on the lifestyle of delivery riders?


While many workers may opt to use on-demand work to supplement their existing income in white collar, or other work, more than 14% of the gig workers rely on their work for their basic needs. These numbers are disproportionately higher for delivery workers.

According to the research, food delivery riders work the longest hours (14.5) and earn the lowest ($20) amongst all other digital platform workers.

How do these digital platforms protect a rider as an independent contractor/small business?


Based on the report, 45.5% of digital platform workers are provided with no work-related insurance. Combined with low wages, if a worker falls sick or gets injured on the job, they have no safety net and need to shell out from their own savings.

As food delivery riders and one-person businesses, they are heavily dependent on the digital food delivery platforms from the get go. It’s where they log your hours, accept work, and is their main initial point of contact with digital platforms and customers. Though lack of access to information and protection may pose a problem, upcover’s got these worker’s backs! Our flexible pay-as-you-go insurance has created a bite sized, tailed insurance product for delivery riders in Australia – and we’ll be launching this month right in Sydney.

About upcover


At upcover, we are committed to improving the safety of riders by providing support, resources and financial products to help them at work, at home and in between.

upcover bridges the protection gap for the fastest growing workforce in Australia by providing the self-employed and independent contractors with the insurance protection and benefits they need.