The gig economy could help four million unemployed back to work with more flexible government thinking

Lynsey Barber
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Unemployment Figures Set To Rise Further In UK
Job centres should offer more flexible work, say Reform (Source: Getty)

Around four million unemployed people could be helped back into work if it was made easier for them to join the gig economy.

There should be greater support from government to help people find flexible work, the think tank Reform has said, with job centres encouraging people on back to work programmes to look for such work as well as advertising gig economy opportunities.

“The current debate around the gig economy is too negative," said researcher Ben Dobson.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Matthew Taylor's gig economy review

"Whilst there are teething problems for the government to address, it is equally important that they harness the opportunity it presents for people who can only work flexibly. This is crucial for the wellbeing of millions of jobseekers.”

It follows the publication of the Taylor Review, the government commissioned independent report into the gig economy and modern work.

As well as suggesting changes tothe way the gig economy is regulated, it also found that too few jobs were advertised as being flexible work and that certain groups - largely carers, women, those with disabilities and older workers - placed a greater value on flexibility, but they are more likely to be out of the labour market than others

Reform calculates that half a million people aged between 50 and 64 are economically inactive because they have careing duties, while 3.5m people of working age are out of work due to disability.

"People with complex work barriers such as health conditions or caring responsibilities may have some work capacity, but find prevailing employment practices too inflexible," said the report.

Read more: Uber, Deliveroo, CBI and more: How everyone's reacting to the Taylor review

"The growth of highly flexible gig work presents a valuable opportunity for such people to access the physical, mental and financial benefits appropriate work offers, where they might otherwise be excluded from the labour market completely."

The government job website Universal Jobmatch should scrape the gig economy platforms for opportunities so jobseekers can see them, the report suggests, and machine learning should be used to personalise job suggestions to them.

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