Unhappy 'on-demand' workers spell trouble for Silicon Valley

The success of on-demand service apps such as Uber and DoorDash is driving entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, but a new report suggests that the contract workers who underpin such companies are unhappy.

Uber ride request

Source: Uber

The survey, titled The 2015 1099 Economy Workforce Report, surveyed 1,330 workers from 78 companies, including the likes of Airbnb, Homejoy, DoorDash, Postmates, Thumbtack, Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and Instacart. Over a third of respondents live in California.50 per cent of the workers surveyed said that finding sufficient work using one of the apps was a common problem. Over a fifth of the contractors work upwards of 40 hours a week, while nearly 43 per cent said that insufficient pay was the leading reason to leave a contract job - the average pay for these contract workers is $18 per hour.75 per cent of respondents said that they started working through companies such as Uber because it offered "greater schedule flexibility". But nearly half of respondents said that "peak hours and demand" dictate when they work.Other concerns raised in the report include lack of benefits such as health insurance, pensions, paid leave, promotions, educational support, disability, HR support, or the social interaction that comes with working for a company.The report, which was put together by Requests for Startups, paints a different picture to the promise of happy self-sufficient freelancers, working for themselves when it suits them, painted by companies that offer the task-oriented, on-demand services.53 million Americans, or 34 per cent of the country's workforce, now work as freelancers according to the Freelancers Union. US software firm Intuit forecasts that by 2020 that figure will be up to 40 per cent of the country's workforce.If workers turn away from the services, however, it could stifle growth in Silicon Valley. The tech sector is fixated on 'the Uber for _____' model for app-based start-ups, but it relies on willing workers for the services to meet demands.Such services haven't achieved the penetration in the UK that they have in the US yet, but they're on the rise, as illustrated by London mayor Boris Johnson's looming clash with Uber over the volume of minicabs allowed in London.For more news and articles like this, see Re:locate's Technology and Enterprise sections.