Is AI data causing wage discrimination for gig economy employees? 

As gig economy companies adopt AI algorithm data sets, employees may find themselves being paid differently for the same amount of work.
By: | April 19, 2023

Uber has refuted the findings of a recent academic paper draft that said companies are using AI data tools to determine the pricing of the work rate of gig employees.

Responding to the Business Insider, a Uber spokesperson said, “We do not tailor individual fares for individual drivers, ‘as little as the system determines that they may be willing to accept’”. The spokesperson cited that their Upfront Fares gives drivers the choice to see exactly how much they will earn and where they are going before deciding if it is worth their time or declining the request.

The research about potential algorithm wage discrimination was conducted by Professor Veena Dubal, Law Professor at the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, whose work found that companies like Uber used AI data and analytics to offer different rates to their contract employees, resulting in employees being paid different amounts for the same amount of work in the same amount of time. Uber was one of the companies that the study featured, along with Amazon and Lyft.

READ: Australia urged to support retirement needs of gig workforce 

According to Professor Dubal, companies like Uber use “massive data sets” to collect inform on how contract employees use their platforms and create algorithms that “calculate the exact wage rates necessary to incentivise desired behaviours”, such as offering lower rates to certain employees in comparison to others to push them to keep working longer.

With companies like Amazon and Uber having a global reach and millions of people relying on the gig economy for everyday tasks, she cautioned that such practices can potentially be replicated across other sectors, impacting more gig employees globally.