Study on gig workers receives COVID-19 Rapid Research funding

Thursday, June 25, 2020

A research team led by Ellen MacEachen in the School of Public Health and Health Systems has received COVID-19 Rapid Research funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) so they can investigate the role of disease transmission in the gig economy, and how to protect these workers.

The study, which includes co-investigators Shannon Majowicz and Samantha Meyer, received more than $162,000, and will contribute to coronavirus containment strategies by identifying disease transmission risks embedded in gig work practices, developing tailored interventions for gig courier workers about gig courier disease-related safety and transmission, and widely disseminating results as they are identified.

Ellen MacEachen.
“Gig courier workers, such as Uber Eats, Amazon Flex and Lyft drivers, have been busier than ever during the Canadian COVID-19 pandemic as the public attempts to avoid illness by ordering take-away food, shopping online and taking ride-hails rather than public transportation,” MacEachen says.

“This places gig courier workers in a unique position to become infected with COVID-19 and transmit it to others as they move people, food and packages from one location to another.”

She adds, “Athough gig couriers are key vectors between where people live and the outside world, formal strategies do not exist to protect them from exposure, or to mitigate their role in disease transmission. Importantly, this risk is not expected to change anytime soon as the high use of couriers will likely not decline as the economy re-opens.”

The government announced the new funding today so that it can continue to address the health challenges of COVID-19 in Canada and around the globe. The May competition awarded $109.7 million to 139 projects, two of which were from Waterloo. The other Waterloo project is led by Carolyn Ren in Engineering.