Innovative Platform or vehicle for 'cowboy tradies'?
Adeib scored his job as (with ten being the most fantastic job imaginable).
Adeib is a young computer science student from Afghanistan. He’s been doing airtasker odd-jobs tasks part-time for about 3 months now, alongside his courier job and his studies.
Like other gig work, airtasker work is contentious. A recent ABC news story described how the Airtasker site results in ‘cowboy tradies’ carrying out unsafe jobs, such as removing asbestos with insufficient protection or doing electrical tasks without qualifications.
And analysts have criticized Airtasker’s lack of essential employee protections, such as insurance, superannuation, and minimum pay rates, resulting in worker exploitation.
Certainly exploitation does happen. Adeib described how he accepted the job of moving a couch upstairs. When he turned up to do the work, there were five couches to move. Adeib didn’t insist that the client pay extra at the time, but he advises clients “next time just tell the truth…we just want to help”.
Airtasker’s rating system fuels the potential for exploitation. As Adeib described, “Good reviews are very important because they affect future work”. The fear of a bad rating prevents some airtaskers from chastising untruthful clients.
So far, in terms of ratings, Adeib is doing well: He has 22 reviews, with an overall score of 4.7 stars out of five (see below).
Figure 1: Screenshot showing Adeib’s overall ratings, plus his review from me
But sometimes the reviews can seem unfair, and there is little recourse. Adeib described his one star rating:
I got a bad rating moving a heavy fridge. The husband was drunk. He tried to tell my friend and I that we couldn’t move the fridge with the ute we had. We said, “ok, we don’t want to do it”. He said “you are here now, do it”. The fridge got a dent and then they (the clients) put a bad rating and didn’t want to pay… Airtasker got involved. The client had to pay, but not as much, so I got paid less. Sometimes people are difficult.
The client, unsurprisingly, has a different view of what happened (see Figure 2). It is difficult to know where the truth lies, although perhaps a clue is how at odds the fridge-moving client’s view is with the other 21 reviews.
Figure 2: Feedback for Adeib from the fridge-moving task
A chance for skill development
In spite of these challenges, so far – just three months into the work – Adeib enjoys his airtasker work, rating it 9 out of 10. He welcomes using the skills his construction-engineer father in Afghanistan taught him. He likes the interaction with (most) clients. And he appreciates developing new skills, such as how he has learnt about gardening through helping out his airtasking friend.
Adeib even feels airtask work is reasonably well paid “most of the time”, although he feels that Airtasker’s 15% cut is “too much”. Indeed, the Holy Grail for Adeib is when the airtasker job leads to more lucrative cash jobs, directly negotiated with the client.
So far Adeib is a happy airtasker worker. And with his almost-five star rating, and his success rate in getting work (estimating he gets “about 60% of the jobs he goes for”), perhaps this positive experience will continue. So long as he can stay away from ladies with lots of couches and drunk husbands...
 Airtasker is a service platform in which consumers advertise a task (with a suggested fee), workers then bid for the work, the client allocates the work to their preferred airtasker, and then, after it is completed, the client releases payment and rates the quality of the work. See airtasker.com
BEHind the scenes
by Sharon Parker
Adeib came to my house to assemble IKEA furniture. I estimated it was 3 hours work and offered $100, using Airtasker’s suggested guide for an hourly rate. In suggesting this amount, I must admit I didn’t think at all that airtasker would take a cut (obvious in hindsight). It feels to me like Airtasker should be clear about their fee so clients can take that into account when costing the work.
After I posted the task, six airtaskers responded within about ten minutes. I chose Adeib because his price was in line with what I expected (he wasn’t the cheapest nor the most expensive) and he had good ratings. I felt mean not choosing the other fast-responding airtaskers, especially with their pleas for the job: “I am the best person to help you” and “Please assign me”.
Adeib was a gentle young man, a little overwhelmed by the whole experience of having a professor wanting to interview him whilst an artist sketches him! But he was obliging. I just tried to avoid asking questions when he was reading the instructions (Ikea instructions being as they are!). We talked about his job, how he came to Australia (a sponsored visa because of some volunteer work with the Australian defence force in Afghanistan), his family, and his country. He very much appreciates being in Australia, and having the chance to study.
As it turned out, the furniture assembly took longer than I had expected (almost certainly slowed down by me asking Adeib questions) so I increased Adeib’s payment on the Airtasker platform and gave him a small cash tip. I had a struggle “releasing the payment” through Airtasker (this has happened before) - stressful because I wanted to pay Adeib straight away. I wrote to Airtasker to get them to release the payment, which took a couple of days. At last the payment went through. I then rated Adeib (5/5) and he rated me (5/5).
Adeib seems to be a hardworking and conscientious young man. Strangely, I will be able “watch” his progress through airtasker: how much work he gets, his ratings and reviews, and how long he lasts on the platform.