Carnegie Mellon University

Gig Economy

Empowering and Enhancing Workers Through Building A Community-Centered Gig Economy

The gig economy is characterized by short-term contract work performed by independent workers who are paid in return for the "gigs" they complete. Example gig platforms include Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Upwork, and TaskRabbit. While these platforms bring about more job opportunities and lower barriers to entry, growing evidence suggests its generation of significant societal problems, including reduced worker well-being, and perpetuated biases against already vulnerable populations. Most gig workers lack financial stability, autonomy, and have low earning efficiency. Prolonged working hours can also cause health issues and limited flexibility. 

To address these growing societal concerns, this project aims to build a community-centered, meta-platform to provide decision support and data sharing for gig workers and policymakers. As a first step, we are currently working with local policymakers and organizations, gig workers and their advocates to 1.) understand their concerns, challenges, and considerations related to gig worker wellbeing and 2.) envision alternative futures for the gig workforce that holds platforms and policymakers accountable for promoting fairer and healthier systems. For workers, we intend to develop a data-driven and human-centered decision-assistance environment to help them make "smart" decisions in navigating and selecting gigs. For policymakers, we aim to provide a macro level perspective to aid in balancing their diverse set of objectives and constraints. Through a combination of changes from workers, platforms, local organizations and policymakers, we hope to cocreate more vibrant and equitable working communities and environments for the gig workforce.

Watch Haiyi Zhu's presentation here.

Learn more about this NSF grant here.

Project Partners:

City of Pittsburgh,
Department of Mobility & Infrastructure (DOMI)

National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

Allegheny County, Department of Human Services

Project Team:

Haiyi Zhu, Human Computer Interaction Institute,
Carnegie Mellon University
Jane Hsieh, Institute of Software Research,
Carnegie Mellon University
Lucas Zagal, University of Utah
Miranda Karger, Barnard College