Distancing Bonus Or Downscaling Loss? The Changing Livelihood of Us Online Workers in Times of COVID-19

Fabian Stephany, Michael Dunn, Steven Sawyer, Vili Lehdonvirta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


We draw on data from the Online Labour Index and interviews with freelancers in the United States securing work on online platforms, to illuminate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic's global economic upheaval is shuttering shops and offices. Those able to do so are now working remotely from their homes. They join workers who have always been working remotely: freelancers who earn some or all of their income from projects secured via online labour platforms. Data allow us to sketch a first picture of how the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the livelihoods of online freelancers. The data shows online labour demand falling rapidly in early March 2020, but with an equally rapid recovery. We also find significant differences between countries and occupations. Data from interviews make clear jobs are increasingly scarce even as more people are creating profiles and seeking freelance work online.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-573
Number of pages13
JournalTijdschrift Voor Economische en Sociale Geografie
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Online labour markets
  • freelance work
  • multi-method study
  • telework

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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