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Pushed or Pulled? A Qualitative Study of the Landscape of Gig Work for People Living with Disabilities and Future Recommendations for Best Practices

Diversity and Inclusion, Disability Management, Future of Work

The gig economy has rapidly emerged as a popular employment option, offering flexible work arrangements and opportunities for individuals seeking alternative employment. While its potential benefits are often highlighted, limited research exists on how the gig economy specifically impacts people with disabilities.   

Why the Gig Economy? 

The aim of this qualitative study was to explore and understand the experiences of individuals with disabilities who engage in gig work. What are the benefits and drawbacks? Are there different sectors of gig work that are more disability-friendly than others? In our study, we set out to carry forward the foundational research that’s been laid and address these questions and others.   

The Push and Pull 

The gig economy offers both opportunities and obstacles for people with disabilities. These opportunities come in the form of increased autonomy, flexible working hours, and the ability to leverage their unique skills and strengths. Although platform apps and gig work predate the pandemic, the number of people that they employ has sharply increased as a result of COVID-19. Due to the flexibility and increased autonomy that comes along with gig work, this is no surprise 


However, participants also reported encountering barriers such as income insecurity, discrimination, and a lack of benefits. Additionally, in many countries gig workers are also legally considered contractors and shoulder the responsibility for paying their own taxes. 

“I’m always in constant fear about my financial insecurity because of working in the gig economy. I constantly think about the next job, especially during these times when life is kind of hard.” – Participant 12    

While participants in the study expressed positive experiences and advantages associated with gig work, many also disclosed that they had been left to work in the gig economy due to the employment layoffs, discrimination in the workplace and a lack of disability-friendly opportunities in the job market. 

What’s Next?  

The findings of this study contribute to a deeper understanding of the gig economy’s impact on people with disabilities and inform policy and practice recommendations to enhance inclusivity, accessibility, and support mechanisms within this emerging work paradigm.   

Future research can build upon these findings to develop interventions and strategies that promote equitable opportunities and address the specific needs of individuals with disabilities in the gig economy.  

To learn more about the Gig Economy   

Become a member and watch our Lectures-on-Demand ‘The Gig Economy: Recommendations for Practice’ by Emily D. Campion, PhD and ‘Worker Wellbeing and the Gig Economy’ by Dr. Arif Jetha and Deborah Stienstra.  

Read the full research article here.

To learn more about healthy workplace practices, check out our Webinars, eCourses and other resources. 

Written by: Andrena Hilder 

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