The advisory committee on platform workers met for the first time last week and said it does not rule out making legislative changes to protect gig workers. This should be a welcome assurance to such workers who need better safety nets. The committee's three priority areas - retirement and housing adequacy, workplace injury compensation, and addressing the power imbalance between gig workers and the platforms they work for - rightly address the main concerns. The focus so far has been on private-hire drivers, food delivery workers and cabbies as the pandemic bumped up demand for their services, and highlighted the tough conditions they work under. Transport and delivery services are not the only sectors relying on gig workers.
The arts and media industries have more than their fair share too. The issue of freelancers in the arts community has been around since the first arts Nominated MP Audrey Wong advocated their cause over a decade ago. Freelance arts and culture workers made up some 47 per cent of the industry's workforce according to a 2016 arts employment survey, which noted that this is higher than the national proportion of 14 per cent. The survey also found that 58 per cent of arts workers held undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications - higher than the national average of 32 per cent. These are skilled, dedicated workers, hit hard by the pandemic as live performing venues went dark and jobs evaporated overnight. The arts contributed an estimated $1.79 billion to the economy in 2017 and these workers, with technical and soft skills specific to the industry, will be needed again when the sector recovers. Many have already been pushed out of the industry by the need for a living wage. The hope is that as the advisory committee proceeds with its work, it can take gig workers in less visible sectors as part of the review.