Gig Workers: Who are they and how their insurance needs are different?

A few weeks back I did an article on Self Insurance & Captive Insurance and one of the primary reasons that motivated me to talk about it was the recent news by Uber and Lyft intending to start their captive insurance companies for their associates, most of them being gig workers in the truest possible meaning of the phrase! And then writing about gig workers and their insurance needs followed naturally. So, who are gig workers and how their needs including insurance needs are different from the salaried people? Let’s find out

Who are gig workers and why they matter?

Gig workers are independent workforce who engage in short-term, temporary assignments for generating income. In most cases, these jobs/assignments are originated through on-demand platforms like Uber, Lyft, Upwork, and Airbnb.

The advancement in technology and the ability to work remotely has given rise to what is called gig economy. A recent Forbes study suggests that by 2027, gig workers would form the majority of the workforce. In the US, currently, there are approximately 57 million gig workers today. And that’s sizeable!

In an unrelated recent development, the European Parliament approved a law setting minimum rights for the workers in the gig economy. This is a welcome move and underlines the fact that gig workers exist in a considerable number.

Are all gig workers alike?

Absolutely not! The gig economy is an umbrella term and includes several professionals from varying skills. In fact, there are only a few who do it out of choice and a chunk of them are forced into gigging! For some, it is the primary source of income for some it serves as a supplemental income.

There are also those who are physical laborers like uber drivers (and tend to earn less money) and then there are virtual laborers like data scientists who make over $100/hour.

Lastly, some of them offer time and/or skills while others rely on assets to generate income. For example, the homeowners offering bed and breakfast through Airbnb!

How their insurance needs are different from the salaried class?

While the gig workers can be classified in several categories including by the nature of work & remuneration, the common thread amongst gig workers is unpredictable income stream and lack of cover from the employers (as they have no employers). Additionally, they attract new risks because of the nature of the job. For example, the freelancing photojournalist runs the risk of camera getting damaged or stolen and a high-end consultant attracts the professional liability resulting from the potential damages due to inappropriate advice offered.

Clearly, their needs are specific and existing insurance covers offered by insurers don’t provide for their needs efficiently.


 

Is InsurTech the way to go?

It is unlikely that incumbent insurers currently address the specific needs of gig workers At least I haven’t come across any. The good news is that there are a handful of InsurTechs trying to tackle the lack of insurance protection for gig workers. Given the protection gap and huge market potential, I see the number of InsurTech solutions focussing on gig workers is going to go north from here on. However, the success of these lies in understanding the intricacies of the gig economy and providing a solution that meets their needs and at an affordable price.

Conclusion

The technological advancement has helped in the surge of gig workers, who are largely underinsured. InsurTechs can possibly help them cover their insurance needs and success of them these lies appreciating the intricacies of the gig economy and in appreciating one-size-doesn’t-fit-all especially when it comes to gig workers.

I hope that you found this article helpful and wouldn’t find yourself clueless when someone throws the buzz word.  Should you have any questions on these or insurance, in general, please do reach out to us at hello@fidentiax.com. And of course, I go live on 3rd June at 8 PM SGT on Twitter for the #AskTheActuary session.  But don’t wait to tweet your questions, you can tweet them anytime including now!

Sumit will be taking a break after the upcoming AsktheActuary Session!

Disclaimer: The article has been written with an aim to broadly explain an otherwise complicated and technical topic for readers with little or no insurance background. Hence, it doesn’t have finer details but is still broadly correct. The readers are recommended to take advise from their respective financial advisers before taking any financial decision.

About the writer: Mr Sumit Ramani is the Chief Actuary of fidentiaX. He is a qualified Life actuary and a computer science engineer with over a decade of experience in (re)insurance business with a focus on modelling of life and health products, peer review and business analysis.


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Edward Goh