‘I have no free time’: People are supplementing their salaries with extra work in the cost of living crisis | Cost of living crisis
EEvery morning, Ian gets up at 6am and does online market research until his kids wake up. He reconnects during his two 45-minute breaks at the supermarket where he works full-time, and at night he will do two more hours. He earns £5 a day from survey rewards but considers it worth sacrificing his free time to maintain his family’s standard of living amid rapidly rising costs.
Ian is one of thousands of workers who have turned to the gig economy after discovering that their full-time wages would no longer be enough to make ends meet as the cost of living slumped. Some scour the web for surveys and trials that offer rewards, while others sign up to become Deliveroo or Uber drivers on evenings and weekends.
It’s not an easy decision to make. “My kids are always commenting on how much time I spend on my phone. There’s not a lot of quality time for us. You start to feel the pressure you need to achieve those goals for the money. I definitely sleep less. I have no more hobbies – I no longer have 90 minutes to watch a football match,” said Ian.
Gig economy platforms are taking advantage of demand from workers looking to boost their wages in their spare time, with several platforms reporting an increase in signups since prices began to rise earlier this year.
Deliveroo has seen a 36% increase in monthly active riders since January 2021, while People per Hour noted a 33% increase in freelancer registrations in the UK compared to the previous period in 2021. Uber is increasing its UK driver workforce from 70,000 to 90,000, and Fiverr data shows that 58% of UK workers have taken on extra work since the start of the pandemic.
A recent Total Jobs report suggested that 17% of people have taken second jobs to boost their income since the cost of living crisis began, rising to 20% for essential workers. A third of employees said they were considering looking for new, better paying jobs.
Many people turn to Facebook groups like GPT Genies to find links to online surveys, download essays, watch videos and play games. GPT increased its membership, according to its administrator Nikki Pilkington, with around 3,000 additional signups between January and May.
Pilkington said she has seen a big increase in membership, and her members say they use their income through the group to “provide simple things like nappies and shoes for their children” or to pay for gas and electric or gasoline bills to get to work.
“A lot of people are actually ashamed that they have to use this medium to earn extra money – they don’t even tell their friends and family about it,” she said.
While self-employment benefits some people, those who spoke to the Guardian shared their frustrations that a full-time job is no longer enough to meet a reasonable cost of living and worried about the impact of long hours of work on their well-being.
Sarah Jacobs*, who works full-time for a tourist office, said she had to take on extra work giving tours and writing magazine articles to cope with a £250 monthly rise in her rent and their heating bills.
“I have a full-time job that pays well – it’s not a big bank or anything, but it’s a full-time job that’s not entry level, and I think I should be able to live off it,” she said. “I don’t have any free time. I wish I didn’t. It’s not a sustainable way of life, but there’s not much else I can do.
Jacobs said she struggles with the constant temptation to look for extra work. “I probably really need to get banned from Indeed’s website, but it’s also necessary.”
The solution, according to Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison, the UK’s largest trade union, is for the government and employers to offer pay rises to help workers cope with the economic crisis.
She said: ‘No one should have to take on multiple jobs just to survive. But they do it because the poverty wage is still too common. Some employers offer workplace food banks when appropriate salary increases are truly needed.
“With prices soaring, every employer should be paying decent rates so that staff don’t have to juggle jobs, risking their own health and the well-being of their families.”
*name has been changed